Guess where I am today?  That's right. If the headline didn't tip you off: I'm in Washington DC, elated to be rubbing elbows with some of our nation's most prominent diabetes advocacy groups, at the high-level Diabetes Forum 2009 Conference, this year titled "Broaden Your View."

obamahealthcareI say "high-level" because this truly is the most influential diabetes event I've ever been invited to participate in. It's put together by a group called Avalere Health that specializes in healthcare policy and business events, and presented by the Big 3 Diabetes Orgs in America: the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), American Diabetes Association (ADA) and

American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE). It's strategically timed during the first 100 days of the Obama Administration, a turning point when we can presumably make our mark on healthcare reform.

From the Conference Overview:

2009 will be an instrumental year in redefining policy priorities as the Obama Administration works to set a new trajectory for healthcare spending in this country. Everybody — policymakers, care providers, payers, patients, and industry leaders — will face difficult spending decisions, and it is crucial that diabetes advocates have a clear understanding of where their issues fit into the future of health reform.

The United States spends more than $174 billion annually to care for approximately 21 million residents diagnosed with diabetes. By 2025, the number of people with diabetes is expected to double, putting increased emphasis on integrated, forward-thinking, patient-centered disease management. Among current efforts to meet this challenge, which show the most promise?  Experts in the diabetes community will discuss the current state of diabetes care, identify key challenges and opportunities, and present a vision for a path forward.

Yipes!  If I weren't a little intimidated to begin with, that did it. But I'm very energized too, because I'll have the chance to hear perspectives on the diabetes care / healthcare reform from the likes of Francine Kaufman, Director, Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and Former President, American Diabetes Association; Dan Elling, Minority Staff Director, House Committee on Ways and Means Health Subcommittee; Robert Heine, Executive Medical Director for the Diabetes and Endocrine Division, Eli Lilly and Company; and many more.

Tonight there's also a special dinner and keynote speech from Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and NBC's The Chris Matthews Show, a celebrated journalist and best-selling author.  He's not only covered every presidential election since the 1980s, giving him a keen understanding of DC politics, but he's also a PWD himself living with Type 2 diabetes.  This should be interesting!

Tomorrow, it's my turn to talk on an early-morning panel about "Shifting to a Chronic Care Model" for diabetes, which is a fancy way of saying the system should focus on prevention and ongoing disease management/support, rather than saving all the efforts for the "end game" when patients need acute care like dialysis and amputations.  Sounds obvious, I know, but the fact is that our current "health care" system is really a "sick care" system and changing that is going to take some big doings.  My job is to talk from a patient's perspective about what's really not working and how we might best remedy it.  I plan to talk a lot about the role of technology in all this, of course ;)

Wish me luck. I hope I do us PWDs proud.

[Editor's Note: A whole mess of topical research reports can be downloaded here]

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