Diabetes Forecast

Diabetes Advocates Make a Call to Congress

Scott (left) and Katie Bruun meet with Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) to discuss the importance of research and funding in the field of diabetes.

Advocates for diabetes are living proof that members of Congress like to listen to good stories.

For example, Scott Bruun, 47, of West Linn, Ore., has been living with type 1 diabetes for 31 years. His daughter, Katie, 11, was diagnosed with diabetes in 2012. The Bruuns were just two of the more than 200 Diabetes Advocates who climbed Capitol Hill for the American Diabetes Association's Call to Congress: Stop Diabetes. Call to Congress is a biennial event that brings Diabetes Advocates from across the country to Washington, D.C., for face-to-face meetings with their senators and representatives.

Isabelle Edwards gives an impassioned speech about the importance of diabetes awareness during Call to Congress.

This year's event, held March 5 to 7, could have been a bust: The threat of a big snowstorm shuttered the federal government. Yet the Bruuns met as scheduled with Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and enjoyed bonus unscheduled meetings, too. The father-daughter duo spoke with other members of Congress, including Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), and staff members. "It went better than I expected," Bruun says. "We had so many meetings by accident. All [the members of Congress] engage in and understand the issue."

At Call to Congress meetings, Diabetes Advocates tell their personal stories about diabetes, share printed material with diabetes facts and statistics, and ask their elected officials to take action to stop diabetes, including increasing funding for diabetes research and prevention. The meetings also give advocates a chance to put a face on diabetes for members of Congress.

Another advocate, Isabelle Edwards, 45, of Elmsford, N.Y., spoke with several congressional staffers, including Reba Raffaelli, legislative director and senior policy adviser for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). "I must have sat with her for 40 minutes, and she really listened," says Edwards, who lives with type 2 diabetes. "She liked the fact that I was educated enough to convey what I needed to say but I had real-life experience to support it." Edwards says Raffaelli spoke about a diabetes prevention program that will soon be launched in Harlem—and how Edwards might be able to help, as an ADA volunteer and host of the online radio show The Diabetes Diva (fishbowlradionetwork.com).

Be Heard
If you weren't on Capitol Hill for this year's Call to Congress: Stop Diabetes, you can still let your voice be heard! Visit diabetes.org/takeaction to find out how to encourage your elected officials to increase diabetes research and programs, prevent diabetes, increase access to diabetes care, and end discrimination against people with diabetes.

Katie Bruun, who was in Washington for the first time, says she was nervous about sharing her diabetes story: how, on summer vacation, she became insatiably thirsty and went to the bathroom seven times in a single night. How her father had tested her blood glucose—"just to rule it out"—and her reading was 310 mg/dl. How since then, she's had to test her blood sugar eight or more times a day and give herself injections with an insulin pen. But Katie spoke confidently and, wearing a navy blazer over her Stop Diabetes® T-shirt, she looked like an intern-in-training, a real natural on the Hill. She says the day got easier, with at least three stops along the way to check blood glucose and adjust accordingly. Adrenaline, her father pointed out, can elevate blood glucose levels, and Call to Congress is an exciting time for those who participate.

Representative Schrader spent a good part of his morning with the Bruuns, listening to their diabetes stories as well as their requests. He suggested that perhaps the money that the Affordable Care Act saves in government spending on diabetes could be put toward research. Looking forward, Schrader says he will consider diabetes funding as it serves his constituents. "If we can make significant reductions [in health care costs], deficit reduction is a wonderful thing," he says, "but let's make investments [in research]."



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