We are only a few months into 2023, but the Endocrine Society has been busy advocating for its members. The Endocrine Society has traveled near (to Capitol Hill) and far (to Brussels and Bangkok) to advocate for our policy priorities. Our priorities include improved research, treatment, and prevention of diabetes; awareness of endocrine-related research, opportunities, advancements, and gaps; increased National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for the fiscal year 2024; and better endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) regulations in the EU and around the globe.
Here’s a look back at what we’ve done and a look ahead at what we are planning to do in just a few of our policy areas:
Endocrine Research and NIH Funding
In January, Endocrine Society members met with staff at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute of Aging (NIA) to discuss the Society’s research interests, opportunities, and advancements that fall within the institutes’ missions. As a result of these meetings, we were able to influence internal review panels to ensure that endocrinology is represented. We also advocated for women’s health research and hosted a congressional reception supporting the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) in collaboration with the Friends of ORWH.
The Endocrine Society will advocate for $51 billion for the NIH – a number that was determined by the broad research community and reflects a 2.3% increase for biomedical inflation, plus a 5% increase for base funding. As we advocate for increased NIH funding, we will continue to call attention to endocrine-related research, opportunities, advancements, and gaps. In March, we will submit testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees sharing examples of the value of endocrine-related research and the need for increased funding. In April, we will conduct a Hill Day during which Society members will meet with congressional offices to advocate for increased funding for biomedical research and highlight the need to support diabetes prevention programs and the Special Diabetes Program. In the Spring, we will also launch an online advocacy campaign for our U.S. members to join and share our message about the importance of increasing support for the NIH and endocrine-related research.
In February, a group of European Society members met with European Union (EU) policymakers in Brussels, Belgium, including Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), European Commission officials, and representatives from Member States Permanent Representations to present the science about the harm EDCs cause to human health and to urge policymakers to advance regulatory and legislative actions that will better regulate EDCs. As a result of these meetings, the European Parliament announced that it will advance the legislation that establishes the hazard classes proposed by the European Commission. With the establishment of these classes, the EU will then look to the United Nations (UN) and Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) for adoption of the hazard classes in the global harmonized system (GHS) of classification and labeling of chemicals. We will continue to ensure that implementation of these classes minimizes exposure to harmful EDCs with the goal of improved public health.
The Endocrine Society is also active at the United Nations Environment Programme and participated in a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand to enhance the interface between scientists and chemicals policy by establishing a Science Policy-Panel (SPP). Society member Scott Belcher, PhD delivered a statement on behalf of the Endocrine Society supporting the positions of Member States who have emphasized the need to implement robust instruments to ensure transparency, independence, and conflict-free activities, especially as it relates to definition of scope and function of the SPP and selection of SPP membership. The Society will continue to engage with the work group as it establishes the framework and operations of the SPP to ensure that the panel’s outputs incorporate the expertise of endocrine scientists and develop policy proposals that improve endocrine health by reducing exposure to hazardous chemicals.
The Endocrine Society has made addressing obesity a top priority. Consequently, we are addressing this issue through advocacy. We are conducting a special initiative to educate members of Congress about obesity so that they will be better informed when they consider obesity-related legislation, including coverage of obesity medication, obesity-related research, obesity prevention, health disparities and social determinants of health. During Obesity Care Week, we will distribute an “Obesity Playbook” to all members of Congress with information about obesity. We also are planning educational obesity briefings for Congress. In addition to our congressional activities, we also have been working with the Food and Drug Administration’s Office on Drug Shortages to resolve recent shortages of semaglitude.
The Endocrine Society is a lead advocate for the Special Diabetes Program (SDP), a federal program comprised of two entities – the Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians. Congress created these programs in 1997 to advance research for type 1 diabetes at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (NIDDK) and to provide treatment and education programs for type 2 diabetes among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN). Each program currently receives $150 million a year.
Last year, the Society successfully advocated to cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for people with Medicare. This year we continue to advocate to expand that cap to people with private insurance and we were especially pleased when President Biden included our messages about insulin affordability and expanding the cap in his State of the Union address.
Despite the SDP’s success and bipartisan support, the program is in jeopardy. Funding for SDP will expire on September 30 unless Congress passes legislation to reauthorize the program. The Endocrine Society is working with the leaders of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus to ensure that this Congress prioritizes reauthorizing the SDP. We are urging Congress to pass a long-term extension with the highest funding possible.
We also continue to be a lead advocate for making insulin affordable. Last year, the Society successfully advocated to cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for people with Medicare. This year we continue to advocate to expand that cap to people with private insurance and we were especially pleased when President Biden included our messages about insulin affordability and expanding the cap in his State of the Union address. We are meeting with congressional leaders to urge action in addition to meeting with the White House to discuss policy options.
In the Spring, we will conduct a diabetes-focused Hill Day during which Society members will have an opportunity to talk about these issues with their representatives and senators and we will also launch online advocacy campaigns for our U.S. members to share these messages with their congressional delegations.
In addition to the areas above, the Society continues to advocate for access to gender-affirming care, access to women’s healthcare, the impact of climate change on endocrine health, and physician payment issues. We will provide additional details on these topics in future issues of Endocrine News.
The Endocrine Society relies on our members’ voices to advocate for our policy priorities. Throughout 2023, there will be opportunities for members to participate in campaigns, Hill Days, meetings with elected officials, and other advocacy activities that support endocrinology research, care, professionals, and patients. With help from our members, we believe that we really will be able to influence the policies affecting endocrine-related research and practice.