Each year, your representatives and senators make decisions on a wide range of issues that profoundly affect hematology research and practice. ASH is the leader in representing the interests of scientists and clinicians working in the field of hematology in Washington, both on Capitol Hill and within federal agencies. ASH plays a vital role in influencing policies that affect researchers, clinicians, and patients by educating lawmakers and government staff on critical issues affecting hematology, including funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH); government activities in sickle cell disease research, training, and services; patient access to safe, effective, and affordable prescription drugs and therapies; and physician reimbursement.

But it’s not enough for organizations such as ASH to advocate for hematology; policymakers want to hear from constituents, too. ASH needs its members to help advance the issues with a direct impact on hematology research and practice. To help raise awareness and encourage action, visit the ASH Advocacy Center at hematology.org/advocacy for the latest updates on ASH’s policy priorities and information about how you can urge your elected officials to support policies important to you and your patients.

The ASH Grassroots Network Lunch, held each year during the ASH annual meeting, provides a forum for interested members to learn how they can participate in ASH’s advocacy efforts, communicate with Congress and their state and local elected officials, become effective advocates for hematology, and discuss ASH’s legislative and regulatory priorities. This year’s lunch will take place on December 9 at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina (located next to the San Diego Convention Center) and will highlight a case study demonstrating how the involvement of ASH members and hematology advocates at the state and local levels can influence policies and lead to changes that improve health outcomes.

In 2015, ASH launched a transformative, multifaceted, patient-centric initiative focused on significantly improving outcomes for individuals with sickle cell disease (SCD), both in the United States and globally, by bringing together stakeholders in the public and private sectors committed to this purpose. A key component of the initiative involves advocacy in support of issues related to SCD. ASH works with federal agencies and Congress to raise SCD awareness and promote the expansion of government activities related to SCD research, training, and services. As part of these efforts, ASH has been committed to advocating for funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Sickle Cell Data Collection program. ASH’s advocacy efforts emphasize the importance of sustainable funding for this program, which is key to improving our understanding of gaps in SCD care and health outcomes among individuals living with SCD.

This year’s Grassroots Network Lunch will highlight the success of hematology advocates in the state of California in building and sustaining the California Sickle Cell Data Collection (SCDC) program. California has been at the forefront of state-based efforts to conduct public health surveillance for SCD since 2010, having implemented a state-wide, multi-source, longitudinal data collection program that encompasses all individuals with this disease. The Society continues to refer to this work as an example of how leveraging key data (and the resulting investment by the state of California, in this case) can enhance SCD advocacy at the local, state, and national levels. Presenters at this year’s lunch will share their stories of how successful advocacy work in California has helped to build and sustain the California program, which includes grant funding from the CDC Sickle Cell Disease Data Collection Program, and of how they have used data from this program to build a network of comprehensive SCD care centers throughout the state to improve health care access.

Drug shortages — particularly for commonly used chemotherapies such as carboplatin, cisplatin, and methotrexate — continue to constrain the care of patients with hematologic malignancies, as well as those with classical hematologic conditions. ASH continues to raise awareness on the impact of the ongoing drug shortages in the Unites States and has encouraged congressional action. The Society recently sent the following two letters to congressional leaders as different policy solutions are under consideration:

In late August, ASH sent a letter to Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, recommending changes to draft legislation entitled the Stop Drug Shortages Act.

In mid-September, ASH sent a letter to congressional leaders on the need for timely and comprehensive action to address drug shortages, including those that affect hematology care.

To join your colleagues in the Society’s advocacy efforts and ensure your elected officials hear your perspectives on this critical topic and the impact it has had on your patients, visit the ASH Advocacy Center at hematology.org/advocacy/reach-out-to-congress.