An integral component of successful advocacy in an association is the strength of the grassroots network. Staff can lay the groundwork and make the necessary connections with legislative and regulatory offices; however, what can be most impactful is the messaging of many individual members. Members of Congress want to hear directly from their constituents on an issue. 

Messaging can come in many different forms and effective advocacy requires multiple touch points. The standard grassroots activity is a letter-writing campaign with a goal of sending as many letters as possible on a single issue. 

Targeted messaging might be achieved through a more personal approach, such as meeting with legislators or participating in a fundraising event. In these direct encounters, an individual has the chance to make a personal connection while delivering a succinct message. This single grassroots outreach can establish a connection that may have longevity beyond the moment. 

A challenge, though, is that most people do not inherently feel comfortable in being a grassroots advocate. As a result, they want to leave this effort to someone else and shy away from any opportunity to participate. The Academy’s Government Relations Committee (GRC) wants to help all members develop the confidence to be a grassroots advocate for audiology. 

Advocacy in Action

Prepare to Engage at AAA 2020 + HearTECH Expo, April 1–4, in New Orleans. Put away memories of boring civics and government classes of yesteryear. No lectures, no history of the bill-making process, and no endless PowerPoint presentations. 

Instead, open your mind to the possibilities of learning advocacy through a fun, interactive model. Join the GRC in the Future Hub at the core of the HearTECH Expo on Thursday, April 2, 1:30–2:30 pm, for our take on grassroots participation games.


Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act

Activity to Date
Since its introduction on July 9, 2019, by Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the Allied Health Workforce Diversity bill has been surrounded by a flurry of activity. Shortly after introduction, the bill text was amended into H.R. 2781— a bill to reauthorize Title VII of the Public Health Service Act—and subsequently passed the full House of Representatives.

On October 30, 2019, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a Senate companion bill, S. 2747, increasing the legislation’s outlook for passage.

This Legislation

  • Would authorize the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to issue grants to eligible university education programs to fund scholarships and stipends for eligible students in the professions of audiology, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.
  • Would define eligible students as those “underrepresented in the professions of audiology, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and physical therapy—including those who are racial or ethnic minorities or are from disadvantaged backgrounds and have a financial need for scholarship or stipend and are enrolled in one of the listed professional programs at an eligible institution.” (Note: The Senate version adds individuals with a disability to the list of eligible students.)

Impact on the Academy and the Profession
This legislation:

  • Would require the HHS Secretary to take into consideration the recommendations of national organizations representing the listed professions—specifically including the American Academy of Audiology.
  • Would enumerate university education programs accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Audiology Education (ACAE) as eligible to receive these grants.
  • Would increase the diversity of practitioners in audiology and expand patient access to these services.

What’s Next?
As we go to press, Academy staff, along with the other professional organizations, are working to get this legislation considered in the full Senate in hopes of passage by year-end.

Act It Out

Taking part in the GRC’s Academy Advocacy in Action session in the Future Hub requires only one thing: a willingness to participate. The games will help individuals build confidence and learn advocacy strategies. Each person can jump right into action through exercises and dress rehearsals that will be good preparation for encounters with policy- and law-makers. 

The activities will help individuals find their own voice—to develop their special story—and speak with a unified voice on an issue. All activities will help foster the Academy’s network of grassroots leaders.

The Academy Advocacy in Action session is for anyone, with or without prior grassroots experience. Bring previous lessons learned and come with an open mind to work with colleagues on new approaches. Each participant may take home something different from the session, but the GRC hopes that everyone will have fun along the way.