History of the American Diabetes Association
The American Diabetes Association was founded by 28 physicians in 1940 - not even 20 years after the discovery of insulin changed diabetes from a fatal diagnosis to a manageable disease.
Initially the Association was exclusively a medical association for physicians, research scientists and health care professionals. At its first meeting, the Association’s president, Cecil Striker, MD, stated, “The patient suffering from the syndrome of diabetes mellitus is the reason for the existence of this Association. His medical, social, and economic problems are our problems.”
Through the 1940s and 1950s it was during these annual meetings that the medical community learned more about diabetes, its genetic and environmental factors, its related complications, and new types of insulin and other treatment options for their patients.
By 1960 the Association’s Committee on Statistics estimated 1.25 million known cases of diabetes, with 72,000 cases diagnosed that year.
Diabetes Forecast Hits the Presses
In addition to providing forums for the medical community’s growth and development, the American Diabetes Association also made strides in public health and awareness.
Diabetes Forecast, the Association’s consumer magazine, was first published (under the name ADA Forecast) in 1948; by 1958 recordings of the magazine were made available to the visually impaired free of charge.
Local offices began sponsoring summer camps for children with diabetes in 1948 – a program that is now the largest provider of diabetes camps in the world.
It was also in 1948 that the first National Diabetes Week was observed, evolving into American Diabetes Month, which continues to be observed every November.
The 1960s set the stage for many changes in the American Diabetes Association:
- Donations were focused more strategically on research funding.
- The Association took an active role in encouraging insurance coverage and equal employment for people with diabetes.
- Local offices and volunteers expanded education and awareness programs to the public.
Stepping Up Our Special Events
In 1970 the Association moved to recognize its strong and dedicated volunteer corps, finally becoming a voluntary health organization with general membership in addition to its long-standing professional membership.
After this had been established, local Association affiliates began to hold special events for fundraising, similar to today’s national Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes and Tour de Cure events. It was also in the 1970s that the Association began to build its voice in legislative advocacy.
Through the 1980s, the Association continued to grow its presence on Capitol Hill while also broadening its reach in the medical community, with programs for primary care physicians and allied health professionals.
Give Us a Call
In 1993 the Association established its first information phone lines, supported by state affiliates. Known today as the Center for Information and Community Support (at 1-800-DIABETES), this service is staffed with highly-trained, dedicated personnel who can provide diabetes information in English and Spanish.
American Diabetes Association Research Foundation was created in 1994 to accelerate the Association's ability to raise major gifts to directly fund diabetes research. The Research Foundation works to match a donor's interests and dollars with cutting-edge diabetes research projects through a peer review process.
The Association made its debut online at diabetes.org in 1996.
For years, the Association was comprised of more than 50 affiliate organizations that were individually incorporated with their own governance structures. To streamline its operations and provide more consistent services to its constituents, the Association became one nationwide organization in 1998.
Now nearly 100 local offices work in collaboration as the American Diabetes Association and conduct multiple initiatives to fulfill the mission: to prevent and cure diabetes and improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimate that there are 23.6 million Americans living with diabetes and another 1.6 million diagnosed each year.
The Association works to meet the needs and concerns facing these growing numbers and educate the health care professionals treating them while collaborating with researchers who strive to improve treatment and, one day, find a cure.
In 2009 the Association conducted research about diabetes awareness and understanding in the United States and found that most Americans were under-informed or misinformed about diabetes – despite the fact that the disease had grown to epidemic proportions.
In response, the Association launched a national movement to Stop Diabetes® – with the audacious goal of gathering the support of 1 million Americans each year to help confront, fight and most importantly, stop diabetes.
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