2017 Call to Congress
Recently, the Association held its bi-annual Call to Congress Advocacy Day. Far more than an event, Call to Congress is a movement to Raise Voice, and it had enormous impact, both in the nation's Capital and in the states represented by advocates across the country. This year's effort engaged volunteers from physicians, researchers, educators and people living with diabetes to produce an impact that will last long beyond the length of this year's gathering.
Mobilizing & Equipping Diabetes Advocates
This year the Association was pleased to have more than 180 advocates from 34 states gather to advocate on behalf of the more than 116 million Americans living with or at risk for diabetes.
The advocates, including adults and children living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, family members of people with diabetes, Officers and Members of the National Board of Directors, researchers, physicians and diabetes care providers participated in meetings with their members of Congress and urged them to address the diabetes epidemic.
In addition to people with diabetes and health care providers, advocates included 32 members of Team Tackle—an initiative to engage professional football players and members of the NFL Players Association to raise awareness of diabetes and prediabetes.
Advocates and the leadership from 11 diabetes research centers held 189 House and Senate meetings where they presented their personal diabetes stories, diabetes research information, and asked their representatives for support of the Association's legislative priorities.
The legislative requests centered around protecting health care for people living with diabetes; advocates asked Congress not to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act without a simultaneous replacement that provides at least the same protections for those with and at-risk for diabetes. Closely related, advocates asked for transparency around the rising cost of insulin and for Congress to hold hearings with all entities in the insulin supply chain to address the reasons for increases in insulin prices. And finally, advocates asked Congress to prioritize funding for diabetes research and programs, including $2.165 billion for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at National Institutes for Health (NIH), $185 million for the Division of Diabetes Translation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and $25 million for the National Diabetes Prevention Program.
Senate Press Conference
During a press conference at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, the Association outlined the state of the diabetes epidemic and called on Congress to protect access to adequate health insurance for people living with diabetes, to increase federal funding to support and drive diabetes research and programs, and to ensure that lifesaving insulin is accessible for all who need it. U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), co-chairs of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, spoke at the press conference, in addition to:
- George King, MD, Chief Scientific Officer, Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School shared the impact of his more than 35 years in diabetes research, particularly his team's discovery of the role of VEG-F in developing diabetic retinopathy;
- Kyle Love, defensive end for Carolina's professional football team, spoke about his diabetes diagnosis, his family history of diabetes and his goals as a member of Team Tackle;
- Patient advocate and mother Kathy Sego shared her family's diabetes journey with their now-college sophomore son who has type 1 diabetes; and
- Certified Diabetes Nurse Educator and President of the Granite State Diabetes Educators Liz Kennett from New Hampshire shared her experiences educating people living with diabetes, particularly the challenges that many have accessing health care.
At the press conference, the Association also delivered its "Make Insulin Affordable" petition, signed by more than 235,000 people since November 2016, to Sens. Shaheen and Collins. The high cost of insulin has impacted many Americans. The affordability issue is a complex one, and the insulin supply chain includes many entities. The Association asked for Congress' help to work with all of the stakeholders in the supply chain to identify the catalysts for the cost increases and to create viable solutions for all Americans who depend on this life-saving medicine.
Research Featured in Advocacy Sessions
While the Association's advocacy efforts have always highlighted the important research work and experts who do it, this year's event drew even more attention to and participation from researchers and institutions from across the country. Association President, Medicine & Science, Dr. Alvin Powers coordinated an effort to invite leading diabetes researchers from highly regarded institutions from around the country. President-Elect, Health Care & Education, Dr. Felicia Hill Briggs also participated as a researcher, representing her institution.
We were privileged to have the leadership of these research institutions participate in our advocacy efforts during the 2017 Call to Congress.
- Lawrence Chan, MBBS, DSc, Baylor College of Medicine
- Mehboob Hussain, MD, Johns Hopkins University
- Felicia Hill-Briggs, PhD, ABPP, Johns Hopkins University
- Nisa Maruthur, MD, MHS, Johns Hopkins University
- George King, MD, Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard University
- Korey Hood, PhD, Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University
- Alan Saltiel, PhD, University of California, San Diego
- Suneil Koliwad, MD, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
- Matthias Hebrok, PhD, University of California, San Francisco
- Peggy Hasenauer, MS, RN, University of Chicago
- Ronald Gill, PhD, University of Colorado
- Alberto Pugilese, MD, Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, University of Miami, FL
- Martin Myers, MD, PhD, Brehm Center for Diabetes Research, University of Michigan
- Perry Bickel, MD, University of Texas, Southwestern
- Alvin Powers, MD, Vanderbilt Diabetes Center, Vanderbilt University
State Advocacy Training
But the event in Washington was only the beginning. Following the Call to Congress legislative meetings on Thursday, advocates spent Friday becoming empowered to Raise Voice back home and to meet with their members of Congress at locally to develop a fruitful relationship. Discussions included the importance of social media as a tool for Congressional follow-up, op-ed and letter to the editor placement, cultivating relationships with members of Congress and becoming a trusted patient advisor, and working with other diabetes advocates to hold effective in-district meetings.
The Association is grateful to the volunteers who traveled from across the country to Raise Voice on behalf of people living with diabetes, for the Association's past and present Officers and Members of the National Board of Directors, and for the Association staff that helped make this year's gathering far more than an event, but a movement.