Never underestimate the power of your story. That’s typically my advice when folks ask what they can do to influence policy. Just tell your story.

Each week, dozens of South Dakotans do.

In some cases, people will share how federal policy impacts their jobs or career fields. In other instances, they’ll offer up changes that could create more opportunity. But many times, they’ll talk about a challenge their family faces, recognizing many others likely face the same obstacle. That was the case when I met with a juvenile diabetes research advocate from South Dakota this summer.

It’s rare to find a family whose story hasn’t been touched by diabetes. In South Dakota alone, more than 40,000 people live with the disease, many of whom are children.

Three of my nephews were diagnosed young. Hunter learned he had Type I diabetes when he was just a year old, his brother was diagnosed a few years later, and Mitchell was diagnosed more recently. Growing up with juvenile diabetes has rarely been easy for them, but more often than not they’ve embraced the challenge, learning resilience, personal responsibility, and compassion for others. I’m pretty proud of them.

We’ve learned together, as a family, how to manage the disease, but it took time to make the necessary adjustments.  Nonetheless, the changes made a world of difference. Unfortunately, an estimated 21,000 South Dakotans aren’t even aware they have the disease, as it’s easy to cast aside the symptoms, which include extreme thirst, itchy skin, increased hunger, unexpected weight loss, or slow-healing wounds.  Some people also experience drowsiness or extreme nausea. If you or someone you love has experienced these signs, it’s important to consult a doctor.

Even in the short time since my nephews were diagnosed, new information about how to best manage diabetes has surfaced. And more investments are being made into research and biomedical innovation every day.

From a policy perspective, we’ve cut some of the burdensome red tape that had made it difficult for innovation to thrive. For instance, in 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law. This landmark legislation removed regulatory burdens that slow the pace of scientific advancement and put patients at the heart of the regulatory review process. It also modernized clinical trials and streamlined processes that made it difficult to translate discoveries into FDA-approved treatments.

Many of these policy changes came because people were willing to tell of the challenges their families faced. Your experiences can have an incredible impact too, so never underestimate the power of your story.

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