Here are several ways you can help shape laws, policies and regulations:
• Educate yourself about public policy issues and laws. Read about current Hot Topics
and WomenHeart’s Legislative Priorities
. Better yet, join WomenHeart's grassroots advocacy network.
• Check and see if your Senators and Representative are members of the Congressional Heart and Stroke Coalition. If YES, contact and thank them for their support; if NO, contact and ask them to please join the Coalition.
• Numbers speak loudest. State and federal lawmakers pay most attention to letters and visits from community leaders who represent large numbers of individuals (potential voters!). Write your own personal letters, but also add your voice to your local groups and organization's efforts to influence public policies. And always mention in your letters the number of women in your state who have heart disease.
• Visit your state and federal lawmakers. They all have local offices in their home districts, so stop in and introduce yourself. If you are ever in your state capital or Washington, D.C., stop in your lawmakers' offices and introduce yourself (also, ask to meet their senior healthcare staff who are also very influential individuals).
• Continue to write your letters to state and federal lawmakers whenever an issue that you care about comes before your state legislature or Congress. Developing relationships with them takes time, your lawmakers will come to rely on your support and trust you over time.
• Follow the same tips as above concerning issues before your state legislature. If you write a letter to your state legislator, send a copy of it to your Governor. If you don't know who your state representatives are, call your mayor's office.
• You many wish to join your local American Heart Association chapter's annual Lobby Day that features visits with state legislators. The chapter schedules your appointments with elected officials/senior staff, during which you can discuss your legislative positions. Make sure you know the dos and don'ts of visits with your Congressional representatives.
• Contact your Senators and Representative in Congress. Write a one-page letter in your own words about your personal experience with heart disease, and then urge them to support a legislative issue you care about, such as tobacco control or research funding for women and heart disease. If you are a registered voter, a long-time district resident, have previously voted or campaigned for, or made campaign contributions to the lawmakers, say so in your letter.