More than 180 Diabetes Advocates, Researchers and Professional Football Players Joined the American Diabetes Association’s 2017 Call to Congress Advocacy Day

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Michelle Kirkwood
press@diabetes.org
703-299-2053

Arlington, Virginia
March 30, 2017

Advocates from around the country urged Congress to ensure access to affordable health care and medications including insulin, and to continue strong investments in diabetes research, care and prevention

Raising their voices on behalf of the more than 116 million Americans living with or at risk for diabetes, more than 180 advocates from 33 states convened on Capitol Hill today for the American Diabetes Association's (Association) 2017 Call to Congress advocacy day. The advocates, including adults and children living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, family members of people with diabetes, researchers, physicians and diabetes care providers participated in more than 188 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 35 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.

"Every 23 seconds another American is diagnosed with diabetes. If diabetes were a communicable disease, it would be the headline on every newspaper and the lead story on every channel," said Kevin L. Hagan, chief executive officer of the American Diabetes Association. "We have come to Capitol Hill today to put a face to this epidemic and tell Congress that the time to act is now."

During a press conference at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill this morning, 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. While the American Health Care Act did not make it through the U.S. House of Representatives last week, the Association remains dedicated to protecting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) from repeal without an immediate replacement that provides equal or greater coverage and protections for people with diabetes.

U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), co-chairs of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, spoke at the press conference and expressed their continued commitment as champions for the millions of Americans with and affected by diabetes. In addition to Sens. Shaheen and Collins, press conference speakers included:

  • 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 treatment for diabetic retinopathy;
  • Kyle Love, defensive end for Carolina' 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.

With potential threats to federal funding for critical health care prevention programs, the Association asked Congress to:

  1. Provide $2.165 billion to the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the primary federal agency that conducts research to find a cure and advance treatments for diabetes;
  2. Allocate $185 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Diabetes Translation, which spearheads essential efforts to reduce risk, complications, treatment and management of diabetes while also continuing innovative translational research and surveillance; and
  3. Support $25 million for the National Diabetes Prevention Program, an evidence-based lifestyle intervention program proven to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

"Every research project leads us one step closer on the long, winding and unpredictable journey to unlocking key information that arms us to battle the diabetes epidemic," said the Association's Chief Scientific, Medical and Mission Officer William T. Cefalu, MD. "We continue to learn the importance of translating findings from research to clinical practice. This critical information is helping us to change the trajectory of diabetes and its devastating complications. We have seen that investing in biomedical research and 'proof of concept' studies years ago has led to the tremendous technological advances we see today. Continued, sustained investment in biomedical research at the federal level is the only way forward in finding a cure for this disease."

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 Association recognizes that 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.

"Our most vulnerable populations are at risk—because they already have diabetes or are at increased risk for developing diabetes and its devastating complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, amputation and heart disease," said the Association's Senior Vice President of Advocacy LaShawn McIver, MD, MPH. "With access to and availability of adequate and affordable health insurance, care and medications, as well as continued investment in diabetes research and care, we can make a difference in the lives of millions."

Illustrating the urgency and desire for action, the Association is proud to now have more than 480,000 diabetes advocates, more than 188,000 who have joined within the last year.

About the American Diabetes Association

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, and every 21 seconds another person is diagnosed with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (Association) is the global authority on diabetes and since 1940 has been committed to its mission to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. To tackle this global public health crisis, the Association drives discovery in research to treat, manage and prevent all types of diabetes, as well as to search for cures; raises voice to the urgency of the diabetes epidemic; and provides support and advocacy for people living with diabetes, those at risk of developing diabetes and the health care professionals who serve them. For more information, please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETESS (1-800-342-2383) or visit diabetes.org. Information from both of these sources is available in English and Spanish. Find us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn)