Posted by Tracey Clayborn & Deborah Darcy  | 

In an effort to increase civic engagement, Facebook rolled out a new feature called Town Hall to help you get in touch with your elected officials. Town Hall pulls up your state, local and federal reps and gives you the option to contact and/or follow them. All you need is a Facebook profile to access the app which even gives you access to call them directly if you choose!

"Building a civically engaged community means building new tools to help people engage in a thoughtful and informed way," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post in March. "The starting point is knowing who represents you and how you can make your voice heard on the decisions that affect your life."

You can find the Town Hall feature by clicking “More” on the left side of your Facebook home page.

Once you click on the feature, it will ask you for your home address. (Your personal information will not be posted.) Town Hall then brings up your local, state and federal representatives. It gives you the option to “Follow” them or “Contact” them.

If you “Follow” your elected official, you will see what they post on their Facebook page, which can include information on their live town hall meetings, articles, press releases and other important information they share with constituents.

If you click on the “Contact” button, you will find their mailing address, telephone number, and email address. The Facebook feature makes contacting your council members, state legislators and federal legislators easy.

Why are town hall meetings—and civic engagement generally—important for people who care about kidney disease? Because this is an especially significant time in health care policy. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are holding town hall meetings across the country to talk about the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is the House Republican bill aimed at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Members of Congress are eager to hear from their constituents about health care.

The role of the citizen is an important part of our nation’s democracy. Town hall meetings are one way that the people who elect policy makers can give their opinion on what is best for them, their families and their county. The new Facebook feature makes it easier for citizens to learn where and when live town hall meetings are scheduled.

The most recent town hall meetings took place over the past few weeks in states including Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Oregon, New Jersey, New York and Texas. To highlight the important role of the private citizen in influencing elected officials, Politico recently published an article, “The 4 Takeaways from the Town Halls Dogging the GOP.” The article notes the four important messages from these recent town hall meetings: 1) Republican AHCA critics have become even more skeptical of the bill; 2) the infighting among House Republicans is getting noticed outside Washington; 3) Republican members have gotten better at handling hostile crowds; and 4) opposing President Trump is a winning strategy for Republicans.

Constituents attending the town hall meetings told elected officials what they think of health care affordability, pre-existing conditions and coverage for all medical conditions. Hearing from constituents about the possible impact of the AHCA at town halls can influence how a member of Congress thinks about the issue. Citizen participation really does make a difference.

Please take advantage of the new Facebook tool. It will help you to advocate on behalf of yourself and kidney patients.
Will you use the new Town Hall tool to advocate?

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