Health Policy Advocacy: Lessons from a Mom who Took On the Tanning Industry

Guest: Donna Helm Regen
May 29, 2 p.m. ET

After using tanning beds throughout her high school and college years, Jaime was diagnosed with melanoma at age 20. She fought a nine-year battle with melanoma until it claimed her life at 29 years old. After Jaime’s death, her mother Donna Helm Regen, launched a campaign against the indoor tanning industry. She shared her story and championed tanning bed legislation in front of lawmakers and millions of people on social media. Donna, deemed “the indoor tanning industry's worst nightmare,” was instrumental in pushing Texas to become one of the first states to pass legislation banning minors from tanning beds. Now more than 15 states have passed similar legislation. Donna also staged a letter writing campaign to universities, which resulted in several revoking tanning salons from campus cash cards.

Dr. Pagoto and Donna discussed the following questions.

  1. Who (besides legislators) are stakeholders to target in health policy advocacy efforts? Who should we communicate our messages to?
  2. What are some ways to leverage social media for health policy advocacy? Who should you follow and interact with? Which platforms?
  3. What type of messages are impactful on groups that aren’t immediately in support of a health policy issue?
  4. What can scientists do to better support advocacy efforts by patients, family members, non-profit organizations, and anyone else on the front lines?
  5. How do you deal with the trolling and pushback from people who disagree with your goals?

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