Call to Congress 2018: Why It's Important to Be a Diabetes Advocate

Written by Quinn Nystrom

I never could’ve imagined when I was 16 years old that I would fall in love with advocating for issues I care about in Washington, D.C. That's when the American Diabetes Association (ADA) gave me a platform, tools, and resources to make a difference. As a young girl from a small Minnesota town, that early experience gave me confidence when I realized the impact of telling the story of my life with type 1 diabetes. All these years later, I’m still attending the ADA’s Call to Congress event on Capitol Hill.

Lots of people ask me if it's intimidating to speak with elected officials but I don't find the experience intimidating. The way I look at it,  we’re actually their bosses. We elect them to that office. So, when I meet with them I view myself as a concerned constituent and a helpful resource of information for them on the topic of diabetes.

At last week's event I represented my home state of Minnesota with another passionate advocate who has type 2 diabetes. We also joined forces with South Dakota, so we attended meetings for both states.

We met with representatives from the offices of Senators Amy Klobuchar, Tina Smith, John Thune, Mike Rounds and Representative Rick Nolan. We raised our voices on behalf of the more than 114 million Americans living with, or at risk, for diabetes. We were joined by more than 150 advocates from across the country.  

In our meetings, we urged elected officials and their staffs to address the diabetes epidemic, currently the nation’s most costly disease according to the ADA’s newly released “Economics of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2017” report. These costs include $237 billion in direct medical costs for diagnosed diabetes and $90 billion in reduced productivity.

The largest contributors to the cost of diabetes are higher use of prescription medications beyond diabetes medications ($71.2 billion), higher use of hospital inpatient services ($69.7 billion), medications and supplies to directly treat diabetes including insulin ($34.6 billion) and more office visits to physicians and other health providers ($30 billion).

In our meetings with representatives in Congress, we asked legislators to take the following actions:

  1. Provide $2.165 billion to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) 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
  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
  4. Increase transparency, affordability, and access to insulin so no one who relies on this lifesaving medication ever has to worry if they’ll be able to afford it
  5. Protect health insurance for people with and at risk for diabetes.

Diabetes is a tough disease to live with. But by telling our story to elected officials and urging them to make diabetes a priority, we can improve our quality of life and get that much closer to a cure for this disease.

Will you join me in becoming a diabetes advocate?

To sign up for advocacy alerts click here: http://www.diabetes.org/advocacy/.

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