Michele Chynoweth, RD, CDE is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and Policy and Advocacy Leader for the Diabetes Care and Education (DCE) Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a nutrition and diabetes consultant and Medicare medical nutrition therapy (MNT) provider. She received the 2011 Legislative Activity Award for DCE and was recognized by the California Dietetic Association with Excellence in Private Practice, Business or Communication Award in 2012.
After years in the field of nutrition and diabetes education, I have changed my priorities when teaching professionals, persons with diabetes and the public. Recognition of signs and symptoms; medications; nutrition, physical activity, and coping skills are important self management tools, but the most important skill is advocacy.
I have attended numerous continuing education and training programs. Knowing what I don’t know…and searching for the information or resources to perform my job are important. It’s difficult to assist others without the tools, access and reimbursement. It is no different for persons and families at risk for and with diabetes. Without the access to services and supplies, delays in care result in needless suffering both with poor health and the stress of utter frustration.
For a trip down memory lane in diabetes advocacy history, it took decades for Congress to pass Medicare Part B legislation to cover diabetes self management training and medical nutrition therapy. One would think that this is a “no brainer” but it took many clinicians, researchers and families to write letters, make phone calls, visit, share personal stories and data to convince legislators to vote “yes” for these benefits. The squeaky wheel gets the attention. Persistence, passion, education and the personal relationship are essential.
Now I use my nutrition and behavioral sciences training to work at the grassroots level to support funding for prevention, research and treatment in diabetes care. I know that team approach is needed not just for health care but for legislative issues as well. A plan with energy and passion for people with diabetes is needed to successfully lobby Congress. The focus must be on people with diabetes and at risk for diabetes (most of us in the US). Supportive professionals can link the research, resources, time and stories. Diabetes is a bi-partisan issue. Diabetes does not discriminate on the basis of any political party. What a unifier!