She has asthma and she simply wants to work and breathe until she can retire in a few years. Yet, each morning as she departs for her office, she is never sure whether her co-worker's perfume will be strong that day, intense enough to trigger an asthma attack. He wants to travel cross-country to visit his grandparents, yet his anxiety has nothing to do with fear of flying; he has food allergies. He can never be sure whether food served on the plane will trigger a severe allergic reaction.
These two people are challenged to live a "life without limits." Overcoming so many obstacles will require an entire community of supporters. Progress, like "fragrance-free" workplace policies or "peanut-free" airlines, requires movement. That is why they have become advocates. That is why you should become one, too. It is also why the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is leading the effort to fight for patients' rights.
What is advocacy? Many envision meeting with the President of the United States as the pinnacle of advocacy. Yet, effective advocacy is much broader and deeper than meeting with politicians or picketing businesses. Asking public officials for changes that promote the health of allergy and asthma sufferers can take place on the micro and macro levels, in public and private settings, from the principal's office at school, to the personnel department at work, to the ticket counter at the airport, to the halls of Congress.
The man who complains about having to sit near a dog on a commercial airliner, only to be told to deplane and take a different flight, confirms that advocacy requires patience. The woman who goes to work every day not knowing whether her co-workers will plug in fragrances shows that advocacy can require confrontation. The man who calls AAFA to ask about the pending change from CFC to HFA inhalers and if they are just as good and safe illustrates the role of research and education in informing advocacy.
Advocacy begins by taking a stand. Once taken, the stand must be tested to be credible. Then, others may listen.
To learn about AAFA's advocacy efforts or to become an advocate, visit the advocacy section at www.aafa.org.
"Footprints in the sands of time are never made by sitting down."
- Author Unknown
Published On: February 14, 2008