Getting Started with Diabetes Advocacy

Advocating for diabetes related concerns does not require any special skills or credentials. What it does require is a desire for change or improvement.

What’s important to you?

If your life is touched in some way by diabetes, ask yourself what's important to you, such as:

  • Access to a diabetes educator or diabetes self-management classes
  • Affordable diabetes medications and treatments
  • Affordable insurance deductibles and co-pays
  • Easily accessible dietary information in school and university dining halls
  • Access to new technology for diabetes management
  • Diabetes prevention programs for children
  • Ongoing research and development of diabetes treatments
  • Options for connecting with health care providers, such as telehealth

Getting started

Once you have explored and determined your focus areas, you might wonder how to go about advocating. You could begin by speaking directly with someone of influence, writing letters, sending emails, or signing petitions. The key is to identify who is in a position to help facilitate the change you seek. 

As a Certified Diabetes Educator(CDE), I am passionate about making quality diabetes education accessible to all persons with diabetes. In 2015, I had the opportunity to join other diabetes educators from around the country at the American Association of Diabetes Educators Public Policy Forum in Washington D.C. While there, we visited the offices of our respective federal legislators in the United States House and Senate to request their support for the Access to Quality Diabetes Education Act (H.R. 1726/S. 1345). The bill seeks to designate CDEs as Medicare approved providers of diabetes self-management training (DSMT) services, and would also expand DSMT telehealth options. We continue to advocate for the passage of this important piece of legislation, and welcome your support. 

Different strategies

While advocating for diabetes in Washington DC was exhilarating, it may not be a realistic option for everyone.  Fortunately, many opportunities to advocate can be found closer to home. Depending on the specific concern, consider contacting one of the following individuals: a leader in your community, the human resources director of your employer, a school administrator, the local YMCA director, a corporate CEO, or the local office of your state or federal legislator. As you begin to analyze the desired change or improvement, there will likely be others to add.  It may seem intimidating at first to approach a person of influence about a cause close to your heart, but often it is this sincerity that makes your argument persuasive and powerful. And remember that legislators work for their constituents. Part of their role is to meet with citizens and listen to their concerns. A phone call to their office to schedule an appointment is the first step in the process. Be prepared and concise in your presentation, and be positive - an upbeat spirit is always appreciated!  The goal is to convince the individual to champion your cause. 

Advocacy does not have to start in a grand manner. Even small efforts can collectively lead to great things. If you or a family member is living with diabetes, or you are a health professional, your voice matters. If a diabetes related issue is important to you, there is a good chance you will attract potential allies who share your concern. 

As with anything diabetes related or otherwise, the first step is the hardest. Take it. There is power in the process! 

By: Marilyn Novosel, MPH, RN, CDE
Fit4D CDE