With the number of Americans with diabetes and prediabetes today, the American Diabetes Association (the Association) has been working to reverse the trend. Under CEO Larry Hausner’s stewardship, the Association has expanded its prevention efforts by utilizing public awareness programs including developing its Stop Diabetes movement, as well as creating a new program, Pathway to Stop Diabetes, to recruit scientists to specialize in diabetes research.

By: John Parkinson, Clinical Content Coordinator
 
The Association’s CEO Larry Hausner, MBA, is well aware of the statistics and the predictions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 79 million Americans have prediabetes today, and as many as 1 in 3 Americans could have diabetes by 2050.

Hausner (pictured here) joined the Association in 2007, and one of the biggest aspects that drew him to the organization was its emphasis on prevention. Prior to the Association, Hausner has had extensive management and leadership roles in the non-profit industry with tenures at both the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society where he rose to COO; and before that with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society where he rose to Chief of Staff to the CEO.   

The biggest and most significant example of the Association’s prevention and public awareness efforts under Hausner has been the Stop Diabetes movement. Stop Diabetes is an ongoing national initiative that not only looks to educate the public about the devastating effects of diabetes, but also gives people an opportunity to join the movement.  

Another way Hausner and the Association are raising awareness is in continuing to communicate to the various racial and ethnic groups that have been greatly affected by diabetes. For example, the Association has programs for African American, Hispanic, and Asian-American, Pacific Islander, and Native American groups that have a high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

The Association also has special programs for parents and children with type 1 diabetes and continues to fight for the rights of all people with diabetes.
 
Additionally, there has been the decreasing number of scientists specializing in diabetes research, so that there are now less people today trying to find a cure for an already elusive disease. In considering this factor, the Association has developed a program, Pathway to Stop Diabetes. With this program, the Association is putting forth its efforts by recruiting scientists across the country for diabetes research.
 
DiabetesCare.net sat down with Hausner recently to discuss the Stop Diabetes and Pathway to Stop Diabetes programs, gain some insights into how the Association works, and discuss the organization’s goals for 2013.

DiabetesCare.net: Can you provide an overview of what the Stop Diabetes Movement is?
 
Hausner: We launched Stop Diabetes in 2009, and we called it a movement because it’s not set for a finite period of time.

After doing a number of focus groups, we found the term “Stop Diabetes” really resonated with people. We have since created the largest, public-coordinated diabetes awareness effort.

The main goals of Stop Diabetes are to educate, to ignite, and to inspire. We try to educate the public about the devastating physical, emotional, and financial toll the disease takes on people with the disease and their families.

We also want to provide a sense of urgency about diabetes. The disease can have complications and deadly consequences, so we want people to understand more about the disease and get them ignited so that individuals, families, and communities get involved.
 
People can visit stopdiabetes.com for more information.
 
DiabetesCare.net: What are some other Association awareness initiatives?
 
Hausner: Two big ones that we want people to get involved in with are Alert Day and American Diabetes Month.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 is American Diabetes Association Alert Day which is a one-day “wake-up call” asking the American public to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes and share it with their loved ones. Every year the number of people who have taken the risk test grows.

November is American Diabetes Month and what we are going to do is to continue to ask Americans to raise their hand to “Stop Diabetes.” They can do this by taking a pledge on our Facebook page and sharing it with family and friends. We want to create a social movement and try to get more people to work together.

DiabetesCare.net: The Tour De Cure is one of the more popular Association events. What is it about this event that makes it so popular?
 
Hausner: There are a couple of reasons. One is we put on a really good tour. People who come out to participate know this is going to be a professionally run event that they can do as a cyclist.  

And the other reason is that we have worked in the “passion” of why people do this event. A couple of years ago, we introduced our Red Rider program. Red Riders are cyclists who have diabetes and also wear red shirts. It really gives people with diabetes special recognition and reminds us all why we are doing this. We have expanded our Red Riders’ concept to include our walking programs, and we call them Red Striders.

Last year, we had over 80 tours, just fewer than 60,000 participants, and rose a little over $23 million.
 
DiabetesCare.net: Are there any particular initiatives that you are proud of?
 
Hausner: Our overall prevention efforts. And what I mean by prevention efforts is getting those who are at risk aware of the disease and getting them to understand what they can and should do to prevent them from getting it. In addition, for those who have the disease already to hold off complications and live the best way they can.

It is really important to stop the growing numbers of people who are getting the disease.

That is really why we are doing events like Alert Day. To give you a sense of the numbers, 160,000 diabetes-at-risk-online tests were taken last year. Of them, 42 percent of the test takers were at medium to high risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

When we look at the Diabetes Prevention Program, we know we can reduce the number of people who progress from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes by 58 percent with a specific, healthy lifestyle intervention.

There are things we need to do and I want to ensure those messages continue to get out to the right communities—both directly to the people who are at risk as well as the healthcare providers.

Another thing that I have been very proud of is being part of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases. We were involved as advisors to Health and Human Services (HHS) as they were developing ideas for addressing diabetes on a global scale. As big as diabetes is getting here in the U.S., it is also growing globally.

DiabetesCare.net: To many people with diabetes they view the Association as a great educational resource and fundraiser. What other important elements—that may not be readily apparent—do you think are important for people with diabetes to know about the Association?

Hausner: People need to know we are a strong advocate in local, state, and national government affairs—whether it be up on Capitol Hill, or fighting locally for the rights of people with diabetes.

For example, we were one of the organizations that fought for the Affordable Care Act. We were there advocating for accessible, affordable, and better care for people with diabetes. One of the programs we fought for was free screening for type 2 and gestational diabetes. Initially, it looked like the screening might not happen, but we fought hard and helped get the screening included in the law.

We have a volunteer force of approximately 825 attorneys across the country and we fight to give voice to those with diabetes whose rights are denied. One of the biggest cases we participated in last year was the State Department’s ban on foreign-service officers who use insulin to manage their diabetes. It used to be that if you used insulin, you could not qualify. We got that changed and now people with insulin-dependent diabetes can serve in the foreign services.

Another area we have focused on is the rights of children in schools. We continue to address that through our Safe at School program. It is for children in elementary school when they need to test or give themselves insulin. They have to go to the school nurse, yet many schools don’t have a nurse. What happens in those schools is the parent needs to come in and help the child. And when that happens, the parent is running back and forth to the school 2 to 3 times a day, and in a worst case scenario, the parent could end up losing a job to take care of his or her child.

We have a program in place that asks schools to appoint a volunteer to be the person the child could go to whether that person is a teacher, the principal, or secretary, who is trained to test blood glucose levels and administer shots.

DiabetesCare.net: Is there an area within diabetes you would like to see the Association become more involved in or put more of an emphasis on?

Hausner: Yes, outreach to communities that are disproportionately affected by diabetes. We now have specific initiatives underway to build awareness in the African American, Hispanic, and Asian-American, Pacific Islander, and Native Americans communities. While we have some excellent initiatives and programs, there is more to do in this area.

Unfortunately, this disease impacts these communities at a much higher rate than other communities, and we need to distribute information to these groups in the right format using communication devices that are culturally appropriate.

DiabetesCare.net: The Association recently announced its new Board of Directors. How often will the board meet and what type of role do they play overall in the organization’s planning?

Hausner: The board has three meetings a year; they meet in March, June, and November. The executive committee has another three meetings. The board’s major role is in their strategic planning. The board is very involved in the building of that plan. We are currently in the second year of a four year plan. Now that we have our plan underway, they are involved in its oversight to make sure we stay focused on reaching the goals.

DiabetesCare.net: Can you please share 2 or 3 organizational goals you would like to see the Association meet for this year?

Hausner: Our goals are included in our strategic plan. And from that plan we develop organizational priorities for each of the years of the plan that help guide us.

One of the key focus areas is that by the end of 2015—of course, we still need to have progress each year—is that people with diabetes will have measurably improved outcomes and disparities in outcomes will be reduced.

We also want to make sure the field of diabetes research will expand to accelerate progress towards the cure and improve treatments. One of our new programs is a bold, innovative initiative called the Pathway to Stop Diabetes. This new research initiative will be incremental to our current research efforts. We are looking to cultivate the best and brightest for diabetes research. The number of scientists who have entered the field has slowed down, and we felt that this is something we could help by increasing the number of new researchers to diabetes.

We have secured funding to begin this new venture. We will help attract new and existing researchers, working in other fields that could be applicable to the field of diabetes research. In the old way we judged research applications, scientists who were not doing something that was solely focused on diabetes research in the traditional way would have a hard time getting money. This is a way to look at things a little differently and get new people and not judge them by their project. The application process will be different than how most grants are obtained. We will be investing in people, not projects. Rather than deciding what science needs to be performed, we will instead focus on attracting the most creative and brilliant minds and help them pursue their discoveries. We want researchers to concentrate on chasing breakthroughs, so awards will be increased in time and dollars to grants will be for five to seven years totaling $1.625 million.

We were able to raise $20 million in 2012 to help us kick this program off. We are completing development of the process now and Requests for Applications will begin in March and by the end of the year we will announce our first Pathway to Stop Diabetes scientists.  

DiabetesCare.net: Where are you looking for these scientists? Universities? Companies?  

Hausner: Academia will probably be where it starts, but we hope to attract people from all areas. It will be a global program so that researchers can apply from anywhere in the world. We want people who can make a difference in diabetes research. We have an advisory council of 17 diabetes experts to help us choose these researchers.

To get involved, support, or learn more about the American Diabetes Association, go to their website here