In the spring of 2020, COVID has become our all-encompassing companion. It’s with us whether we’re at home sheltered, at work as essential providers, and even when we’re out getting exercise or essentials and hopefully wearing face coverings, washing our hands, and maintaining a six-foot distance from others. 

As a person with Type 1 and also in the high-risk age category, I experienced my first contact with the healthcare system on Weds, May 27th, at the VCU Dental Practice, where I am a patient and in need of emergency dental care. The screeners checked my temperature and watched as I used hand sanitizer. Of course, I was wearing face covering—that was a given. However, one can hardly have one’s teeth worked on with a mask on, and I became quite aware of what the dentist and his assistant were taking on as I breathed unimpeded in their presence. They were wearing face shields and N95 masks, but it was weird.

Why do I relate this story? As an advocate in my day job, I think constantly about how to communicate messages to policymakers. My work is relationship-based. I develop and maintain relationships with the policymakers on a daily basis. For the past 15 years I have done this work primarily on a face-to-face basis. That isn’t happening now. 

But for those of us with stories to tell and messages to convey about health, wellness, and treatment and prevention of diabetes, our work cannot be at a standstill while we wait for this virus to run its course. The virus may be in our presence for years; we have to get used to advocating within the constraints that we now know help mitigate the spread of the virus: distancing, handwashing, face coverings. 

What can you do to advocate with policymakers in this environment? You can participate in telephonic town hall meetings. You can email your policymakers with messages that resonate with our community—the need for continuing to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions, the need for safe communities where we can exercise, the need for fresh food in easily accessible markets, the need for affordable medications, and the list goes on. 

And the need to participate as a citizen in the most important franchise of all: the election in November. If you do not wish to vote in person, make sure you have your absentee ballot, fill it out, and mail it on the due date. More on that closer to the election!

If you have questions about advocacy, contact me at [email protected].