What is advocacy?

Advocacy can be described in various ways, including:

‘The act of representing or promoting a cause or purpose on behalf of oneself or others’

‘The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy’

On breast cancer advocacy:

This is not about MY breast cancer. It is about everybody’s life with breast cancer. This is not a personal battle but a political one, in order to fight a disease that affects the lives of so many European women. The use of one’s personal experience in a constructive and creative manner in order to bring about awareness and change – this is what breast cancer advocacy is about. It is about life.’ Stella Kyriakides, former President of EUROPA DONNA – The European Breast Cancer Coalition.

 ‘Every woman has a voice. Every woman’s voice tells a highly personal story, which, when blended with the voices of a thousand other women, becomes a rising wave of similar hopes and dreams, fears and concerns. In the field of breast cancer, this rising tide of women’s voices speaking out as sufferers, supporters and campaigners is a powerful force for progress in combatting the disease, and it was to give a platform to those voices and harness the power that EUROPA DONNA was launched’. Cancer Futures Vol 1 (2-3), March 2002

Patient advocacy groups play an important role in raising awareness about serious health issues and the voice of the patient advocate is a powerful voice. Changes in policy achieved through advocacy have resulted in improved breast cancer services in the USA, Australia and Europe and other cancers have benefited from these improvements. EUROPA DONNA believes in the power of the informed advocate and every year organises an advocacy training course in Milan, to which each member country may send two women. The aim of the advocacy training is the development of informed advocates who work in their own countries on priorities in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in each country.

Advocacy can involve influencing policy, affecting legislation and changing attititudes. To further its advocacy objectives and maintain awareness of its Ten Goals, EUROPA DONNA carries out projects and programmes in three main areas: Education, Information, Lobbying. As well as member countries establishing priorities and campaigning at national level, the Coalition lobbies and works with the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Europe.

In Ireland, Europa Donna Ireland’s activities have included:

  • Publishing a breast cancer charter
  • Organising national conferences in Dublin, May 2006 and September 2008
  • Holding information sessions
  • Encouraging and organising Breast Health Day activities every 15 October
  • Making presentations to women’s and community groups
  • Bringing our information stand to relevant conferences and meetings
  • Lobbying politicians and decision makers at local and national level
  • Making submissions to relevant government commissions and working groups
  • Membership of national working and advisory groups
  • Highlighting breast cancer issues through the media
  • Publishing newsletters and various information leaflets
  • Bringing the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer campaign to Ireland
  • Participating in conferences at European and international level

From Europa Donna Irealand’s foundation in 1998 a priority was to campaign for specialist breast units (SBUs), accessible to all, and for a national breast screening programme for women between the ages of 50 and 69. We are happy to say that the SBUs are now in place and working well as regards diagnosis and treatment. However, there is room for much improvement in ancillary services, including lymphoedema and psychological services. The breast screening programme now covers all of Ireland but ends at the age of 64. The Programme for Government promised to extend the age range to 69 and we continue to press for this. Access to medical cards and the cost of drugs are continuing concerns in the current economic climate.

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