Guest editorial: Parkite says Senate must remember to fund life-saving diabetes research
December 3, 2017
My journey with type 1 diabetes started 10 years ago when I was diagnosed with the chronic autoimmune disease at the age of 36.
I didn't know anything about type 1 diabetes, but I made it my new mission to educate myself – and everyone around me – about the disease that caused my pancreas to stop producing insulin. I learned that the onset of type 1 has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle, there's nothing you can do to prevent it and – currently – there is no cure.
I also learned that having a family history of type 1 diabetes puts people at higher risk of developing the disease. My son was diagnosed in 2013 when he was 3 years old, and my daughter in 2015 when she was 11.
The good news is that advances in research have improved diabetes management tools in ways that have been, quite literally, life-saving. As a busy mom and lawyer, I can administer insulin through an insulin pump when I'm in court or on the road shuffling my kids between activities. Innovative new technology allows me to monitor both my own and my children's blood sugars through a device called a continuous glucose monitor – allowing me to see the results in real-time, directly on my smartphone.
We joke that we get a lot more sleep now, because my husband and I no longer have to get up in the middle of the night to check blood sugar levels. Our phones notify us if anyone's blood sugar is out of range. Most importantly, this technology allows us to monitor our family's blood sugar and avoid serious complications of type 1 diabetes (i.e., loss of limbs or eyesight).
Unfortunately, these advancements that allow my family – and others with type 1 diabetes – to live better quality lives and ensure our long-term health and well-being are in jeopardy because funding for the government's primary diabetes research program expired October 1.
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My family's shared experience is a testament to how this research program, called the Special Diabetes Program, improves lives. The National Institutes of Health runs the Special Diabetes Program and funds research across the country, including at the University of Utah.
But in order for this critical research to continue, the Special Diabetes Program must be renewed for multiple years at the current funding level of $150 million. The Special Diabetes Program is an investment that will help reduce future costs for our economy – the total cost of diabetes in Utah alone is $1.67 billion a year.
Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would renew the Special Diabetes Program for two years. Now it's the Senate's time to act, and while they have an incredibly busy schedule this fall, there is no time to wait for this life-saving research to move forward.
My family recently met with Senator Orrin Hatch, to speak with him about the Special Diabetes Program. As we were leaving, my seven-year-old son told Senator Hatch, "Promise to remember me."
I know Senator Hatch is a strong supporter of scientific research, but together with Senator Mike Lee and their colleagues in the Senate, I'm holding them to this request. Please remember me, my son, my daughter, and the other 1.25 million Americans with type 1 diabetes by renewing the Special Diabetes Program. The next dollar towards scientific research could find a cure.
Christina Miller is a resident of Park City and a volunteer with JDRF, the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes research.