Need support for a state advocacy issue? Grant program can help fund your initiatives

The American Academy of Dermatology Association’s (AADA) State Advocacy Grant Program provides financial assistance to state dermatology societies for the advancement of their health policy initiatives, including state lobbying expenses. Applications for the 2017 program close on Sept. 30, 2016. Member to Member discussed the importance of the grant program with past recipient Lawrence J. Green, MD.

MTM: Why did you seek the AADA State Policy Grant?
Lawrence J. Green, MDDr. Green: In Maryland, we wanted to advance legislation for an 18 and under indoor tanning ban. Maryland has had a parental consent law for under age 16 but we wanted to do more than that.

Because I have been involved with the Academy, I was aware of the grant. I knew it would help promote our advocacy agenda in Maryland.

We’ve received three grants over the years. The grants have helped pay for lobbyists and educational material for legislators and the public about the issue. Unfortunately, you can’t be a doctor full time and also be at your state capitol lobbying consistently for issues like this. That’s where the lobbyists come in and they cost money.

MTM: How did the grant help support your efforts?

Dr. Green: With the AADA grants we were able to hire lobbyists; identify legislator champions, lobby appropriate members of the committee to try and move forward the bill; talk to the chair of the committee and see what his thoughts were on the bill and what the chances of passing it were in his committee. All those things.

It’s important to note that it’s very difficult for a solo individual or even a small group to get things accomplished in government. Democracy in action is exemplified when a large group working for a single cause captures the attention of legislators. So it’s essential to join forces with like-minded organizations in order to push forward legislation. When politicians recognize that the issue is a concern of a large number of people, they will know that it’s an important item for their constituents and they will act on it.

The Maryland Dermatologic Society, which secured the AADA grants, made the tanning ban a focus of its advocacy efforts. It partnered with the American Cancer Society Action Network, as well as the Maryland State Medical Society to advance the initiative.

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Applications for the AADA State Policy Grant close on Sept. 30, 2015. Apply now.

The medical society was very supportive of the bill and their lobbying efforts helped. So, not only was our state dermatology society involved, but the state medical society was involved, as well. We were able to introduce a resolution in the Maryland State Medical Society House of Delegates to advocate for an under 18 tanning ban. It passed and now it's part of the agenda of Maryland State Medical Society to have an under 18 tanning ban.  

Of course, funding lobbying efforts is essential. As physicians, we don’t necessarily know who the right legislator to help us advance our agenda. Who should be the champion for the bill? What state delegates and state senators would be best to advance your bill? Who are the people to have on your side when the bill goes to committee? What legislators are going to work against you? We don’t have the time or the expertise to figure these things out. And it’s something that can’t be tackled without money. That’s why the AADA State Policy Grant is so important and so helpful.

MTM: What was the result of getting the grant?

Dr. Green: This has been an ongoing campaign. We've tried to pass it a few different times at the state level and we learned something new about the process each time. The first time we did it without the help from the AADA grant and we got nowhere.

Through this process we learned that the chair of a committee can hold up a bill, and that's what happened to us.

So after first attempting to go after a statewide ban and failing, we pivoted and decided to go after it a different way. In 2015, after we failed to get the statewide bill passed again, we realized it wasn't going to pass while the Senate Finance Chair was in office. So we could either wait until after his chairmanship was over or we go county to county. We’ve used the grant money starting in 2016 to go county to county. We are targeting the most populous counties first. In the next two years, by getting the measure passed in just four counties, we'll have 60 to 65 percent of the state covered in an under 18 tanning ban. We passed the first county earlier this year, and are in the process of working with the second county.

MTM: How difficult was it to go through the grant process?

Dr. Green: Very easy. The AADA told me exactly what needed to be done to get the grant. That made the process much, much easier. Applying for any grant is a process that can require considerable effort. But the AADA helps you through the process, so it’s not that difficult.  

All Academy members should know about these grants. To me it was obvious that the grants were available because I've been involved in the AAD, but it might not be as apparent to members who aren't as active. I encourage all members to investigate the option for their state advocacy initiatives.

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