How to stay involved in the fight against kidney disease

There are many ways you can stay involved in the fight against kidney disease during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though Congress is out of session and congressional staff are working remotely like most of the country, you can still advocate to them on behalf of kidney patients.

Action alerts

At the American Kidney Fund (AKF), we’ve made it very easy for you to complete action alerts to let your elected officials know that issues affecting people with kidney disease are important to you. Our federal and state and living donor protection action alerts take just two minutes to complete, and will send an email to your elected officials on your behalf.

Please check our action alert pages regularly—we add more alerts as new legislation comes up, including multiple federal alerts related to COVID-19 that you can fill out. Though many state legislative sessions last for just a few months at the beginning of the year, we also add ways to get involved locally to the state action alert page year-round.

Social media

Social media is a great way to stay up-to-date on what your elected officials at all levels of government are doing. Many elected officials are increasingly turning to social media to share news, legislation they are working on and how they plan to vote on certain bills, so you can learn a lot just by following them. If you don’t already have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, you can sign up for them for free. Don’t forget to follow AKF, too (Facebook, Twitter here and here, Instagram)!

You can find your elected officials’ social media handles on their official websites. You can also use Facebook’s Town Hall feature to find, follow and get the contact information for your elected officials.

Emails

Sending emails to your elected officials can be effective, if you send them to the correct person in their office. If you want to send an email to a member of Congress, you are better off sending it to the staff member who handles the topic you are inquiring about. For the issues AKF and our Ambassadors advocate for, that staff person will likely be the health legislative assistant for the congressperson’s office. You can call the congressperson’s office to find out the name and email address of the health legislative assistant.

Sending an email to a state elected official is a little different. State officials get far fewer emails than their federal counterparts, so there is a better chance that the legislators themselves will actually read your emails. However, it is still likely that an email sent to a state legislator’s official email address will be read first by a staff member who will figure out how to respond. The lawmaker will be made aware of important or compelling emails, so your best bet would be to share your kidney disease story in your email to help it stand out in their crowded inbox.

Snail mail

Sending a letter through the U.S. Postal Service can be an easy way for you to get your point across, without having to deal with technology. While letters you send may get a swift reply from a state legislator, it can take quite a while longer to get a response from Capitol Hill. All mail sent to Congress is routed off-site to a facility that makes sure there is nothing harmful in the letter or package. This process can damage letters, or anything else included in your envelope, so please be cautious with what you send. Eventually, the mail will make its way to the offices on Capitol Hill and you will get a reply from your elected official or their office at some point. Letters work great if you want to just be heard by an elected official; however, when important and timely legislation is at stake, other methods of communication deliver better results.

Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor (LTEs) in relevant newspapers and magazines are not always the most common way to communicate, but they can be the best way to get your message directly in front of an elected official. Nearly all lawmakers have their staff keep track of all news articles that mention their name, including from digital and print sources. Elected officials do read the news clips their staff gives them. LTEs usually have a 100-250 word limit, but some digital outlets publish longer letters. Very few LTEs make it into the print edition of the newspaper, but they sometimes publish additional letters on their website.

Reach out to AKF

Need guidance on how to get started or want someone to review your LTE before you submit it to a newspaper? AKF staff is always more than happy to discuss how we can reach your advocacy goals together. Feel free to email me if you have any questions!

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About the Author

Ben Shlesinger

Ben Shlesinger is the associate director of government relations at the American Kidney Fund.

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