JDRF ‘grows up’ with its target group
By Debbie Gardner
GREATER SPRINGFIELD It’s always been about improving the lives of individuals with type 1 diabetes, but it’s not just about the children who’ve been afflicted anymore.
Forty years after a group of concerned parents founded the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) around a kitchen table; JDRF is still keeping its eye on the ultimate goal finding a cure for the autoimmune disease that affects more than 700,000 Americans while recognizing that their mission has grown up along with those children.
“It was in the 1970s, and the families wanted 100 percent of the donations to go to research for a cure [for their children],” Karen Corbin, development manager for the North Central Connecticut/Western Massachusetts chapter of JDRF, said. “JDRF has always stayed true to the focus on a cure for type 1 diabetes, but there has been a realization that there are so many adults out there with type 1.”
Corbin said the organization, which recently de-emphasized the term “juvenile” in its title, electing instead to go by the acronym “JDRF,” is now focusing its funding on a triumvirate of issues, which she listed as “cure, treat and prevent.” In addition, JDRF has adopted the shorthand of “T1D” to spotlight its main goal, supporting and advocating for the health and care of individuals with type 1 diabetes.
The organization is also focusing on ways to better connect with T1D patients across all age ranges. Locally, that translates into an effort to connect with patients who have reached college age by creating what the chapter calls its Young Adult Empowerment Network.
“Our goal over the next year is to open clubs and host gatherings for students with T1D at a variety of colleges in both Connecticut and Western Massachusetts,” Allegra Itsoga, special events coordinator for the North Central Connecticut/Western Massachusetts JDRF chapter, told Reminder Publications.
Itsoga said chapter intern Alysa Hernandez, a T1D patient who will be entering Central Connecticut State University in the fall, is spearheading this new outreach effort. Hernandez recently started a blog about her experiences as T1D, which runs on the chapter’s Facebook page as part of this newly-created Young Adult Empowerment Network. Interested individuals can follow Hernandez’s posts at jdrfempowermentnetwork.blogspot.com.
Individuals interested in more information on college-age groups forming in the Western Massachusetts area should contact Itsoga at 860-321-2267 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though statistics show both types of diabetes type 1 and type 2 are on the rise in America, with the Center for Disease Control reporting a total of 1.9 million cases diagnosed in 2010, the causes behind these two diseases differ dramatically.
Type 2 diabetes is primarily a disease in which the pancreas cannot make sufficient insulin to process the food eaten, and is generally triggered by weight, lifestyle and diet.
Type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the pancreas, destroying the cells that produce insulin, a hormone necessary for digested food to be absorbed and used by the body. Unlike a type 2 diabetic, who can often manage the disease with diet and exercise, a type 1 diabetic becomes dependent on multiple daily insulin injections to survive. JDRF is currently advocating for various research projects to help improve the lives of T1D patients, including urging the Food and Drug Administration to speed the review of materials that would allow clinical trials of an artificial pancreas that might return type 1 patients to a normal physiology.