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Advocacy at the ATS

Advocacy at the ATS

While the individual members of the American Thoracic Society work to improve lung health in patients worldwide, the ATS works as a collective Society to advocate on behalf of public health. The ATS stays at the forefront of issues both in the United States and, in collaboration with our global partners in the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), worldwide.

Like other mission-oriented organizations, the ATS uses traditional advocacy techniques, such as press releases and policy statements, to promote key issues and to advocate for public health. Recent ATS advocacy has included a statement on the replacement of the Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, and expresses concern from the ATS that the new plan to regulate carbon pollution fails to adequately reduce carbon dioxide emissions from U.S power plants. The ATS has also weighed in on health care policy at key moments in the U.S. policy debate.    

But advocacy at the ATS goes beyond statements. When the EPA proposed new data rules earlier this May that included substantial changes in how the agency would use scientific data, and would require all research studies used by the agency to make all original data sets, methodology and other research tools publicly available, the  ATS led a sign-on letter campaign. The campaign was comprised of 15 medical and public health organizations, and requested that EPA grant a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the rule. Then, at the ATS 2018 International Conference, the ATS held a press conference, “Silencing Science,” where experts discussed proposed changes to EPA data rules. The panel expressed concerns over the implications of the proposal, including how it would affect current environmental regulations and by extension, patient health. The EPA did extend the comment period on the proposed rule, from May 30, 2018, until August 16, 2018. 

Just last month, the ATS led 11 medical groups in submitting an amicus brief in American Academy of Pediatrics v. FDA. The suit sought to compel FDA to use its pre-market review authority to regulate candy flavored cigars and e-cigarette products.  The ATS brief summarized the known adverse health effects of youth cigar use and e-cigarette use and noted how both these products can induce long-term tobacco addiction. Advocacy around flavored e-cigarettes and their popularity with youth is a priority for ATS in general. Last year, the ATS produced a short video, Smell and Tell! Kids Respond to Candy-Flavored Tobacco, to illustrate the similarities between candy and the flavorings used in flavored tobacco. In a blind smell test, children were asked to describe what was in front of them based on scent. None of the children guessed that the item in front of them was actually a tobacco product.

Another component of our advocacy, ATS Hill Day, brings together advocacy volunteers in Washington, D.C. Participants gain insight on the Society’s key priority issues and advocate on Capitol Hill on behalf of their patients with respiratory, critical care, and sleep disorders. Topics have included increased NIH funding, and health care reform.  Past participants have even included patients themselves, who are then able to share their unique perspectives on the need for increased respiratory research, showing directly how scientific research translates to patient advances.

ATS membership in FIRS allows the Society to continue advocacy on a global scale. On September 25, FIRS will recognize World Lung Day to advocate for respiratory health and air quality globally. World Lung Day is also an opportunity to raise awareness about, and gain signatures on, the Charter for Lung Health,  which is a call to action for better lung health worldwide. Recently, FIRS also produced a position paper in relation to  the dramatic rise in use of nicotine-delivering e-cigarettes, among youths worldwide.

Advocacy is a central tenet of the ATS, and one that remains critical in our mission to promote lung health and help the world breathe. By working with partner societies here and abroad, we amplify our collective impact and promote lung health for generations to come.