Advocacy Vocabulary

Words Matter

Whether you are new to advocacy or have advocated on Capitol Hill more than once, the legislative process can be a complicated journey and learning to “talk the talk” can make all the difference.

The following is a list of frequently used advocacy words and phrases, followed by a brief definition, to help you every step of the way.

Action Alert

A message that the Foundation will send asking for members of the community to take an action, usually to contact their legislators about a specific policy issue.


Someone who supports a cause.


When the government sets aside funds for a specific, defined purpose. Appropriations is the budget for the government and government-sponsored programs.


A written, proposed law


The Centers for Disease Control, the national agency that monitors, does surveillance on, and reports on disease outbreaks, disease distribution, and other public health topics.


Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid funding and distribution


A group of legislators that develops bills on a specific topic, such as health or veterans’ affairs.


A legislator that supports a given bill, but did not necessarily take part in writing the bill.


Department of Defense; Relevant because the DoD gives grants to researchers studying GBS through the Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program, but we need to ask for GBS to be included in the program every year!


The Food and Drug Administration, the national agency responsible for approving new drugs / medical devices and monitoring the safety of food, medical devices, and medicines.


A person, elected by the public, that writes and votes on proposed laws. Legislators include Congresspersons and Senators at the federal level and State Representatives and State Senators at the State level.

The legislative branch of federal government includes the Senate and the House of Representatives. All US have a system that is modeled after the federal setup.

H.R. xxxx

This designation means that a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives


Legislative Assistant – a staff member on a legislator’s team that reviews, summarizes, and recommends legislative activity to the Senator or Congressperson. L.A.’s usually become experts on a certain topic, like healthcare.


National Institutes of Health, the national medical research center.  The NIH relies on Congress to set the appropriate funding level so that the center can give out grants and continue lifesaving research! The NIH is comprised of several specialty research centers, such as :

NINDS – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

NIAID – National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases


Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program. This program exists under the DoD, and includes an opportunity for researchers to apply for funding to study a particular condition. GBS is a condition that may be studied under this program.

Rules Committee

A committee in the House that assigns each bill a “rule”, which determines how much the bill will be debated.

Speaker of the House

The leader of the House of Representatives. The Speaker controls the calendar of the House of Representatives.


The primary writer (or writers) of a bill. There may be several sponsors on any given bill, and each bill has to have at least one sponsor. Sponsors must be legislators.

Now that you’ve mastered the language, head over to the Action Center and take part in the legislative process by sending a letter to your Senators and Representative!