Background An important part of creating impact on behalf of people with RMD's is improving national policies. In the Danish Rheumatism Association we give great priority to advocacy and political campaigning, as we consider it one of the most effective ways of directly improving the lives and conditions of people with RMD's. However, measuring the direct impact of these efforts can be difficult, as decision making within the political system is often non-transparent and many stakeholders influence the process. Therefore, communicating clear objectives, stamina and determination are important skills to bring to the table, as the case examples of this lecture will show.
Objectives Using two case examples of policy changes that are the direct result of political campaigning by the Danish Rheumatism Association, the lecture will aim to give insight to the process of creating policy change in a national setting.
Methods The lecture builds on two case examples of policy changes that came in effect after strong advocacy efforts by the Danish Rheumatism Association.
Through our counselling service our patient counsellors learned that RA patients had a strong need for foot care by foot therapists, as hand and foot deformities due to their RA made it difficult to perform foot care by themselves. The Danish Rheumatism Association set out to document the scope of the problem among RA patients and suggested policy changes that could better the foot care of affected patients. In 2007, after some years of campaigning, a new law gave RA patients with “strong symptoms as well as hand and foot deformities” the right to 50 per cent coverage of the treatment cost.
Patients with Sjögren's syndrome (SS) often experience dental problems due to their illness. For many years, the Danish Rheumatism Association's social counsellor heard from patients that they had troubles paying for expensive dental treatments. Through dialogue with fellow patient organisations, we learned that oral cancer patients were facing similar problems. With common efforts between the patient organisations, a new policy securing financial aid to dental treatment of SS and oral cancer patients was implemented. The law came in effect in 2006.
Results Both cases more or less follow the same template of political campaigning. The template can be summarized as different phases: firstly realising and documenting the scope of the problem, secondly analysing and formulating the wanted policy change, thirdly planning the campaign (identifying fellow stakeholders, political allies, PR-strategy and finding a so-called “hook”), and at last executing the campaign strategy.
Conclusions The cases outlined in this lecture are examples of successful policy campaigns. However, very often the campaign will not succeed – or at least not to the extent that you intend. Also, succeeding in effecting a policy change is not a guarantee that the actual problem is solved, as the practical implementation of the policy is as least as important.
Disclosure of Interest None declared