Call to Congress - A Volunteer's Story
Virginians Urge Congressional Leaders to Help to Stop Diabetes by Ann Weinberg
Last week [on March 10, 2011], I had the honor to join a delegation from Virginia and more than 200 other advocates from around the country to meet with our Members of Congress. We came to Capitol Hill as part of the American Diabetes Association’s “Call to Congress” to share our personal stories about living with diabetes and to ask for support to Stop Diabetes. We were easy to spot in our red shirts with the “Stop Diabetes” logo.
All of the advocates shared one characteristic – being affected in some way by diabetes. Some of us were young, some old. Some have diabetes, some have family members or friends dealing with or who have died from the disease, some were healthcare professionals who deal with patients affected by diabetes and some were just passionate about the cause.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as an adult, 11 years ago. I had no family history of the disease, I was always slim and athletic and ate right. But even though I wasn’t a logical candidate for the disease, I got it anyway. I learned very quickly how to inject insulin and take numerous blood sugar readings each day, and that I needed to pay attention to everything I ate and did each and every day to maintain some control of my diabetes.
I shared my own personal challenges with the Healthcare Directors in the offices of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Senator Mark Warner’s (D-VA) offices. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) joined our discussion, along with his Healthcare Director and Legislative Correspondent. We were also able to meet with the Legislative Director from Rep. J. Randy Forbes’ (R-VA) office. As advocates, we had certain specific goals: (1) to advocate against cuts in funding for diabetes research and prevention programs in this year’s budget, (2) to provide increased funding for Fiscal Year 2012, and (3) to ask that the Members of Congress join the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, which educates Members about diabetes.
All of us explained how diabetes has affected our lives. We provided some staggering statistics, including the fact that 1 in 3 children born after the year 2000 will have diabetes if present trends don’t change (1 in 2 for minorities). We emphasized that providing for $80 million in funding for the National Diabetes Education Program (sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control) makes good financial sense since it will give a return on investment of $190 billion in 10 years, due to medical cost savings and productivity losses avoided.
We explained that nearly 26 million people in the United States are living with diabetes, with another 79 million who have pre-diabetic conditions. In 2009, approximately 481,000 adults in Virginia had diagnosed diabetes. Our personal stories illustrated how much of a challenge coping with diabetes on a 24/7 basis can be, not just for someone with diabetes, but for our families, friends and colleagues.
The American Diabetes Association has research showing that the annual cost of diabetes in America is $174 billion. Because of the growing number of Americans with pre-diabetic conditions, that amount will triple in the next 25 years. Every 17 seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes in the United States. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and blindness among adults aged 20-74. Diabetes is also a major cause of heart disease and stroke. Overall, the risk for death among people with diabetes is about twice that of people of similar age but without diabetes.
All of us Call to Congress participants came together at the end of the day for a reception on Capitol Hill. We had time to compare our advocacy experiences and celebrate our successes. Despite the extremely rainy weather and wet shoes, we were all truly excited by the day’s events. The companionship of others dealing with disease and the telling of our stories made the goals of the 2011 ADA Call to Congress even more compelling and inspiring.
As I headed home to Richmond the next day, I was encouraged that our advocacy efforts will continue on an ongoing basis across the country. The effort to Stop Diabetes is too important to only occur once a year. As someone at the meeting said, “We can’t stop, we won’t stop, until we Stop Diabetes.”
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