Diabetes Spectrum
Volume 12 Number 4, 1999, Page 236
From Research to Practice / Diabetes Advocacy

Increasing Diabetes Awareness and Promoting Research Funding in the House of Representatives: A Letter From the Chairman of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus

George R. Nethercutt, Jr.

  In Brief

The Congressional Diabetes Caucus, formed in 1995, has greatly advanced the cause of diabetes in the U.S. House of Representatives. This letter from Diabetes Caucus founder Rep. George R. Nethercutt, Jr. (R-Wash.) outlines the group's past successes and describes its current focus on increasing federal funding for diabetes research.

The Congressional Diabetes Caucus was formed in 1995 to increase the awareness of diabetes in Congress and to promote greater research into diabetes and diabetes-related complications. Our membership has grown during this short time to 260 members of Congress. In addition, a Senate Caucus has recently been formed to promote awareness of diabetes in the Senate.

Diabetes Caucus members have worked on a wide range of issues, from securing passage of legislation providing Medicare coverage for diabetes education, blood glucose meters, and strips for non-insulin-using beneficiaries to discrimination issues. We obtained passage of a provision in the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act to speed approval of a safe and effective noninvasive blood glucose monitor when one is finally developed. We have worked with the Department of Transportation to initiate a process to re-examine its policy prohibiting people with diabetes from obtaining a commercial interstate trucking license.

As most people touched by diabetes know, many racial and ethnic groups and the aged population are disproportionately affected by this serious disease. In response to this fact, the Diabetes Caucus has worked to obtain passage of provisions to establish pilot diabetes detection and treatment programs through the Department of Defense, Veterans Administration, Indian Health Service, and Agricultural Cooperative Extension Service.

The Caucus also obtained passage of a provision to improve the nutritional content of commodities and provide adequate nutrition education to Native Americans through the Food Distribution Programs on Indian reservations. Through the efforts of many Caucus members, led by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a provision was secured in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 to provide $150 million in funding over 5 years for the treatment of Native Americans with diabetes and $150 million in research funding over 5 years for type 1 diabetes.

The major focus of the Caucus at the present time is to increase federal funding for diabetes research. First and foremost, we are working hard to implement the findings of the Diabetes Research Working Group (DRWG). In February 1999, the DRWG released "Conquering Diabetes," a report that addresses the research steps necessary to find ways to better manage diabetes and cure this serious disease. (See related article on p. 243.) The report was based on a bill I sponsored 2 years ago to authorize the establishment of the Working Group. Through discussions with researchers and those who support greater research efforts, I saw the need to permit researchers to take a step back and attempt to better focus the federal government's efforts to establish a long-term plan to put us on track toward curing diabetes.

The nature of congressional budgeting and the system of awarding research grants does not afford biomedical researchers the time or the incentive to establish long-term strategic plans. There is no adequate system for bringing together federal researchers with nonfederal re-searchers, members of the lay community, and the general public to determine the best direction for research.

Dr. Ronald Kahn, chairman of the group, spent literally thousands of hours meeting and talking with countless individuals to establish a consensus on the direction of diabetes research. Each recommendation is linked to a funding estimate, and the funding estimates are totaled by each institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and overall spending.

My focus in Congress will be to ensure that NIH spends $827 million on diabetes research for diabetes research for fiscal year 2000, so that all the recommendations for the DRWG can be implemented. A difficult task lies ahead of me and the other members of the Caucus, but with your help, we can succeed. We were able to secure 271 signatures on an open letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Porter requesting $827 million for the exciting and extraordinary research opportunities outlined in the report.

These accomplishments could only have come about through the combined efforts of many partners, including you, our constituents. It is now important for you to voice your support for $827 million for diabetes research to your federal officials. Your opinion does make a difference. Please take a moment to write your member of Congress in care of the U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515, or call 202-225-3121. Your senators may be reached by writing in care of the U.S. Senate, Washington D.C. 20510, or by calling 202-224-3121.

George R. Nethercutt, Jr., is a Republican Congressman from the state of Washington and is the founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus in the House of Representatives.

Guest Editor

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Ann Albright, PhD, RD, received her doctoral degree in Exercise Physiology from the Ohio State University. She completed a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Nutrition at the University of California, Davis, and a clinical internship in nutrition at the University of California, San Francisco.

Currently, Dr. Albright has an academic appointment in the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco, where she serves as director of the Diabetes Control Program for the California Department of Health Services. She also maintains a clinical practice as the dietitian and diabetes educator at the Placer County Clinic.

Dr. Albright has conducted research investigations in body composition, diabetic nephropathy, the role of tissue glycosylation in diabetic complications, and glucose transporter mRNA in adipose tissue and muscle.

Dr. Albright is chair of the Advocacy Committee for the American Diabetes Association and serves on the Board of Directors. She is the president of the Western Region of the American Diabetes Association. Additionally, she is chair of the Diabetes Council for the Association of State and Territorial Chronic Disease Program Directors and chair-elect for the Diabetes Care and Education Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association.

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Copyright 1999 American Diabetes Association

Last updated: 12/99
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