The American College of Surgeons (ACS) is committed to advocacy on behalf of surgeons and surgical patients. Whether it’s advocating for access to care, payment and liability reform, or improved quality measures, the College has played an integral role in shaping the decisions of lawmakers and policymakers.
Health care policy is constantly evolving, and surgeons on the front lines of care play an essential part in shaping that change. Medical professionals are trusted resources who bring evidence-based solutions to issues often clouded by political rhetoric and disagreement. It is critically important for surgeons to be leaders in advocacy and continue efforts both locally and nationally to shape policy discussion around health care. A clear example of the power and efficacy of advocacy is the successful efforts to spread the word about the Stop the Bleed® program.
How it began
In April 2013, just a few months after the active shooter tragedy on December 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, the Joint Committee to Create a National Policy to Enhance Survivability from Intentional Mass Casualty and Active Shooter Events was convened. Chaired by ACS Regent and trauma surgeon Lenworth M. Jacobs, Jr., MD, MPH, FACS, the committee included other members of the medical community and representatives from the federal government, the National Security Council, the U.S. military, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and governmental and nongovernmental emergency medical response organizations. Working in collaboration, these dedicated public safety advocates created a protocol for national policy to enhance survivability from active shooter and intentional mass casualty events.
Because these meetings initiated in Hartford, CT, the committee’s strategic plan became known as the Hartford Consensus. One of the recommendations in the Hartford Consensus was to turn bystanders into immediate responders at mass casualty events in order to improve the survivability of victims with severe bleeding in the crucial moments before first responders arrive at the scene. That recommendation gained widespread recognition in October 2015 when Stop the Bleed, a national awareness campaign and call to action, was launched. Stop the Bleed is intended to cultivate grassroots efforts that encourage the public to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency.
Today, the ACS Committee on Trauma (COT) is leading the charge to save lives by teaching the civilian population to provide vital initial response to stop uncontrolled bleeding in emergency situations. The Stop the Bleed campaign has been successful in its efforts to inform, educate, and empower the more than 300 million citizens of the U.S. ACS Fellows are educating other medical providers and the community about bleeding control techniques in all 50 states and approximately 90 countries.
Advocacy culminates in bipartisan legislation
Over the last several years, the staff of the ACS Division of Advocacy and Health Policy and Fellows of the College have offered bleeding control training to members of Congress and congressional staff. Through this effort, the ACS has demonstrated the importance of Stop the Bleed on Capitol Hill and in district offices across the nation.
In June 2018, ACS Fellows trained more than 76 congressional staff during a Stop the Bleed training session hosted by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and conducted by members of the ACS Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. As a direct result of that event and the College’s efforts to educate lawmakers about the importance of bleeding control, Reps. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Brad Wenstrup, MD (R-OH), introduced H.R. 2550, the Prevent Bleeding Loss with Emergency Devices (BLEEDing) Act on May 7, 2019. This legislation would provide funding to states to install bleeding control kits and offer training and is a critical step toward empowering civilians to take lifesaving action when the need arises. The funding would be provided through a Department of Homeland Security grant program and will help to drive the goal of reducing or eliminating preventable deaths from bleeding.
Bleeding control is a nonpartisan issue. The efforts of the College, from the collaboration that resulted in the Hartford Consensus to the launch of Stop the Bleed training programs, have taken what could have quickly become an unsolvable partisan issue and created legislation that has garnered wide attention and support.
The value of engaging members of Congress and their staff is clear and recognizable. Advocacy is vital to effect change, and the College will continue to be a leader in halls of government as long as its Fellows realize the power of their influence.
For more information on the Prevent BLEEDing Act or Stop the Bleed advocacy, contact Hannah Chargin, ACS Congressional Lobbyist, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Fellows are encouraged to contact their representatives and ask them to support this legislation through SurgeonsVoice.