On Wednesday, March 06, 2013, I had the opportunity to be one of the 200 American Diabetes Association (Association) volunteer advocates from across the nation to travel to Washington, DC for the Association’s premier national advocacy event, Call to Congress. As the CEO & Founder of the Pearls Foundation for Women, a Diabetes Advocate from the State of Georgia, I met with Members of Congress asking them to make diabetes a national priority and support efforts to Stop Diabetes in the State of Georgia.
Attendees included children and adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, family members of individuals living with diabetes, researchers and health care professionals. All participants are deeply committed to diabetes advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal levels.
During scheduled meetings with Members of Congress, we urge Members to make a strong federal investment in the Fiscal Year 2014 Labor Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill. Specifically, advocates will ask Members to allocate funding for the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, provide funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Diabetes Translation and support funding for the National Diabetes Prevention Program—all programs grounded in research and dedicated to fighting the nation’s diabetes epidemic.
“Call to Congress provides diabetes advocates from across the nation with an opportunity to shine a spotlight on this deadly epidemic and urge Congress to make meaningful investments toward the fight to Stop Diabetes,” said Gina Gavlak, RN, BSN, Chair, National Advocacy Committee, American Diabetes Association. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that by 2050 as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes unless steps are taken to prevent this. Congress must act now to fund vital diabetes research, treatment and prevention programs that could curb the trajectory of this disease and ultimately save lives.”
With nearly 26 million Americans living with diabetes, and another 79 million with prediabetes, this disease affects every community across the nation. During Call to Congress, Diabetes Advocates will share their story with Members of Congress to put a name and a face to this epidemic and urge Members to join the Congressional Diabetes Caucuses. The Senate and House Diabetes Caucuses educate Members about diabetes and support legislation that improves diabetes research, prevention, education and treatment.
While in Washington, DC, in addition to meeting with Members of Congress, we participate in a series of trainings with other Call to Congress participants that will help enhance advocacy efforts back home in their local communities.
For more information about Call to Congress, please visit http://www.diabetes.org/advocate/events/call-to-congress.html
About The American Diabetes Association
The American Diabetes Association is leading the fight to Stop Diabetes and its deadly consequences and fighting for those affected by diabetes. The Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. Founded in 1940, our mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. For more information please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit www.diabetes.org.
Pearls Foundation for Women
My inspiration to advocate for diabetes and digestive and kidney diseases comes from the spirit of my late great-grandmother who suffered from the ills related to diabetes. Despite the severity of her illness, the amputation of her legs, and being bound to a wheelchair, she refused to let her plight steal her love of life and living, by continuing to adorn herself with colorful dresses, a strand of precious pearls, and a warm, loving and beautiful smile.
In addition to my great-grandmother, I have had several other family members and friends who have lost their battles to the deadly symptoms that are inherent in each of these diseases.
Adequate funding to engage in medical research, health screenings, and implementing best practices in preventive health care are the most important first steps in combating these ailments in ways that not only will affect individuals, but also will impact many of the high-risk communities in which the afflicted now live, such as the African-American community where the risk is greatest for contracting diabetes and digestive and kidney disease.
Regrettably, statistics indicate that 4. 9 million or 18.7 percent of all African Americans ages 20 years or older have diabetes. African Americans also are 50% mostly likely to go blind from ailments related to diabetes; 2.6 to 5.6 times more likely to suffer from kidney disease; and 2.7 times more likely to have their prognoses result in amputations.
Although these diseases can be controlled, we have yet to discover a cure. That said, the major public relations challenges are 1) to build greater awareness about these diseases among African Americans and others through health education, preventive medicine, dietary choices, and changes in lifestyle, and 2) to encourage African Americans to make the necessary arrangements to donate their organs to the growing pool of people of color for whom few organ matches are now available. It has been scientifically and medically proven that the best and most successful donor-recipient organ matches occur when the donor and recipient share a commonality of race, blood types, DNA structure and/or other hereditary characteristics, so there needs to be a targeted effort to increase the rate of organ donations among people of color.
My great-grandmother was the heartbeat and cornerstone of our family. A devout Christian, she remained active in both the church and the community until the end of her days. When she became ill, the family first thought it was high blood pressure or related to stress. At the time, we believed that diabetes was solely related to food choices, nutrition, and exercise, and we failed to link her illness to our family’s medical history. However, several years ago, I received more bad news: a family member was in need of a kidney at the age of 30. Once again, our family was not prepared. We all attempted to alter our lifestyles to ensure that this family member would be able to receive a new kidney. It took several years for it to happen, but I learned a lot through that process. I learned that education is the best cure for prevention.
To learn more about the Pearls Foundation for Women , please visit www. https://sites.google.com/site/sonyayoungcompany/or follow Sonya on twitter at soyoungco.