On March 22, I had the opportunity to attend the American Diabetes Association’s Call 2 Congress (C2C) in Washington, D.C. It involved arriving on March 21 in a snow storm that closed down the government for the day, attending a half-day training session, Capitol Hill visits on March 22, and a recap on March 23. Our biggest asks were for funding for diabetes through support of the National Institute of the Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation and the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP). As it turns out, a vote was held that day which included support of the funding for these programs through Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18). It passed! We were thanking our representatives for their support and asking for more funding for FY19.
A team from New York State went to the offices together. Our first visit was with my congressman, Representative John Katko. During these scheduled visits, it is most common to meet with an aide, often one that deals with health/medical legislation. Sometimes, the representative will come out to meet the constituents. I have never had this happen, in spite of going to Capitol Hill a few times before. So, our team went into the office and met with an aide who listened to us and took notes. We finished by asking if we could count on the Congressman’s support for our asks and received a response that he is supportive of diabetes initiatives including being on the Diabetes Caucus. We said thank you and left the office.
You don't have to go to Washington, D.C. to make a connection with your representative.
We were standing in the hallway when an aide came out to say that the Congressman would like to meet us. He came out and we had a nice little talk about diabetes. He had just signed a proclamation supporting Diabetes Alert Day, March 27. We got some photos and went to the next visit. This was a great way to start our visits! As the day went on, we were thrilled to get positive responses from the other representatives we met with. They understood the importance of diabetes funding for FY19, with increased funding from FY18 now in place!
Fast-forward one and a half weeks: I am at home where I volunteer at a local nursing home on Sunday mornings for church service. Guess who was there? Representative Katko and his family. I waited until after church and stepped up to say that I had met him one and a half weeks ago, in Washington, D.C. He recognized me and I reminded him that I was there regarding diabetes. I will visit him in his local office in Syracuse this summer. I want him to remember the importance of diabetes funding and that there is someone in his district, Karen Kemmis, a diabetes educator that can be a contact regarding diabetes.
You don’t have to go to Washington, D.C. to make a connection with your representative. Go to the local office, to a town hall meeting, to an event they are attending. Go up and say “hello,” that you are a diabetes educator and it is important to support diabetes initiatives. Let them remember there is a diabetes educator in their district who is available as a contact. If you do make the connection, let the AADE Advocacy department know! This was an exciting couple of weeks for me as I actively sought out support and had a chance meeting for follow up. You can do it, too!
About the Author
Karen Kemmis is a physical therapist and certified diabetes educator, and also holds certifications in Pilates for rehabilitation and exercise for aging adults. She is based out of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY and splits her time between a Joslin Diabetes Center affiliate, an outpatient rehabilitation department, and a PT program where she is an adjunct professor.
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