Advocates team up with NFL players to urge Congress to fund diabetes research and programs


Stepping up the fight against diabetes

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Late last week, more than 100 diabetes advocates and professional football players convened in Washington for the American Diabetes Association’s Capitol Hill Advocacy Day and held more than 125 meetings with members of Congress and their staff.

The advocates included adults and children living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as well as family members of people with diabetes and healthcare professionals. They were joined by 34 professional football players to help spotlight diabetes — one of America’s leading chronic health crises. The football players were in Washington to announce the association's new initiative, Team Tackle, which brings together professional football players with the association to raise awareness about diabetes and prediabetes.

ADA: Team Tackle

During a press conference on Capitol Hill, the association presented its petition with more than 79,000 signatures to U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan M. Collins (R-ME), co-chairs of the Senate Diabetes Caucus. Both Senators Shaheen and Collins expressed their continued commitment to support funding for federal diabetes research and programs.

The association's Stop Diabetes petition contains signatures from more than 79,000 people urging Congress to:

  1. Increase funding for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health;
  2. Fully support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Division of Diabetes Translation (DDT); and
  3. Provide more resources for the CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP).

Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, and an additional 86 million Americans have prediabetes, which puts them at greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes can face devastating complications including kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, blindness and lower-limb amputations.

“Federal funding for diabetes research and programs is critical for us to make progress -reducing the incidence of diabetes, advancing the treatment protocols for diabetes, preventing the complications of diabetes and helping continue the quest for a cure,” said Kevin L. Hagan, CEO of the American Diabetes Association. “We ask Congress to increase funding for diabetes research and programs so together we can improve the health and lives of millions.”

The NIDDK is the primary federal agency that conducts research to find a cure and advance treatments for diabetes. Increasing funding to $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2017 will provide NIDDK with funds to support continued research to prevent diabetes, improve care, prevent the severe complications of diabetes and continue the search for a cure.

The CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation's mission is to eliminate the preventable burden of diabetes. To achieve this mission, DDT provides essential information and education about diabetes risk, complications, treatment and management and produces innovative translational research and surveillance. The association seeks $170 million for DDT in fiscal year 2017.

The National DPP provides cost-effective, highly successful diabetes prevention programs for people with prediabetes. It is based on a clinical, lifestyle intervention program proven to reduce the risk of diabetes by 58% for adults and 71% for seniors. Increasing fiscal year 2017 funding for the National DPP to $25 million will allow the CDC to expand the reach of this highly effective program.

“With increased funding support for research and programs we can change the future of diabetes,” said Gina Gavlak, chair of the association's National Advocacy Committee. Gavlak is also the CEO of a charitable medical clinic, an emergency room nurse and a person living with Type 1 diabetes. “These efforts can make a difference in the daily lives of many,” she said.

During yesterday's press conference, Team Tackle members Mike Golic (sports commentator and former player for Houston, Philadelphia and Miami), Dont’a Hightower (New England) and Lorenzo Alexander (free agent) shared their personal connections to diabetes, and their commitment to raising awareness about diabetes through the Team Tackle initiative.

In addition to the Capitol Hill press conference, the association, diabetes advocates and Team Tackle members participated in panel discussions at the White House an event that examined the current state of diabetes prevention, research and treatment efforts. Association speakers included Hagan, Robin Richardson, chair of the board for the association, and Gavlak. Team Tackle speakers included Rashad Jennings (New York), Aaron Murray (Kansas City) and Sam Acho (Chicago).