U.S. Senator Susan Collins today chaired a hearing to examine the impact that juvenile diabetes has had on children and their families, the economic costs of caring for people with diabetes, and the promising breakthroughs in juvenile diabetes research that could lead to better treatments or a cure for the disease. Thirteen-year-old Caitlin Crawford of Yarmouth, Maine testified at today’s hearing as a “Children’s Congress” Delegate representing the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). More than 100 children, ages 4 to 17, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia are participating in this year’s Children’s Congress. Caitlin was one of five delegates chosen to testify at today’s hearing. In addition, actress Mary Tyler Moore, NBA player Adam Morrison of the Charlotte Bobcats, and Dr. Griffin Rodgers, Director, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health testified at today’s hearing.
“As the founder and Co-Chair of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, I have learned a lot about this disease and the difficulties and heartbreak that it causes for so many American families as they await a cure. Diabetes is a life-long condition that affects people of every age, race and nationality. It is the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness in adults, and amputations not related to injury. Moreover, it is estimated that diabetes accounts for more than $132 billion of our nation’s annual health care costs, and that health spending for people with diabetes is almost double what it would be if they did not have diabetes,” said Senator Collins. “These statistics are truly overwhelming. But what really motivates me to devote so much energy to this issue was meeting more and more people – like our delegates today and their families – whose lives have been forever changed by diabetes. That is why it is so important that you have all traveled to Washington today to tell your stories. You put human faces on all of the statistics. You will help us to focus on what Congress can do to help us better understand and ultimately conquer this terrible disease.”
Actress Mary Tyler Moore has lived with diabetes for 40 years and is the international spokesperson for JDRF. She is an advocate for increased federal funding for research and today she described how critical the cooperation between JDRF and the government is to eventually finding a cure. Ms. Moore called the JDRF Children’s Congress delegates a “determined bunch,” and said “we are here to remind the government of the urgency of efforts to increase research dollars and are willing to do our part to help in the effort.”
Maine delegate Caitlin Crawford added, “”When I learned I had diabetes, my life changed forever……I would do anything to go back to living a normal life…I always feel different. My family has been very supportive and I realize all they have had to give up because of my disease.” Caitlin is an avid skier and compared that to the way she deals with the disease saying she knows she must plan ahead and realizes that challenges are in front of her. But, unlike a race that has a beginning and an end, she says, at this point, diabetes does not have an end.
This is the fourth Children’s Congress hearing that Senator Collins has chaired. As the founder and Co-Chair of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, Senator Collins is a leading Senate champion for the 16 million Americans with diabetes. Since Senator Collins founded the caucus, funding for diabetes research at the National Institutes for Health has more than tripled from $319 million in 1997 to more than a billion dollars last year. She has also introduced a number of important bills that were signed into law, which resulted in increased funding for diabetes research and to promote better health care for people with diabetes. Last month, 64 Senators joined Senator Collins in sending a letter to the Senate Leadership urging increased funding for Type 1 diabetes.
Senator Collins is a recipient of both the JDRF’s Congressional Leadership Award and the American Diabetes Association’s National Public Leadership Award.