In 1994 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which led me to create Celiac.com in 1995. I created this site for a single purpose: To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives. Celiac.com was the first site on the Internet dedicated solely to celiac disease, and since then it has become an invaluable resource to people worldwide who seek information about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.
In 1998 I created The Gluten-Free Mall, Your Special Diet Superstore! which was also another Internet first—it was the first gluten-free food site to offer a shopping cart-style interface, and the ability for people to order gluten-free products manufactured by many different companies at a single Web site.
I am also co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.
Celiac organizations and patients from several states recently attended two very important educational lobbying efforts in Washington DC. The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF), American Celiac Society (ACS), and Celiac Sprue Association/United States of America (CSA/USA) were formally represented, and were advocates for the Digestive Disease National Coalition (DDNC) and National Institute for Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Our goals in lobbying were twofold. First to encourage the Senators and Representatives we visited to support a 16.5 % increase in the Budget for NIH (National Institutes of Health) and to provide $405 million to NIAMS in fiscal year 2001. This money is important in efforts to double the NIH budget by 2003. NIH is the major funding organization for research that is supported by government grants. Often research that may not seem directly linked to celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis, is beneficial to our disease and others. A good example is the Genome Project. Genetic mapping will help researchers refine their research and hopefully speed efforts to find causes and cures for diseases.
The second goal was to increase awareness and educate about our particular disease. We accomplished this very well. On March 19, 2001, celiac disease had the largest patient representative group at the DDNC, and reached nearly 20 representatives. Members of DDNC and NIH were very impressed by our representation of celiac disease. The following week we had 3 representatives attend the NIAMS Advocacy efforts. While visiting our Congress people we had the opportunity to tell our stories and explain how legislative decisions impact us individually, as well as share some facts about CD/DH. Fact Sheets and other materials were left in each congressional office that we visited.
DDNC represents many gastrointestinal disease organizations. We are pleased that all the national celiac organizations are members of this coalition. NIAMS and CPA-SDR (Coalition of Patient Advocates for Skin Disease Research) are the coalition groups that the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) is a member of, in order to represent persons with dermatitis herpetiformis. Work by coalitions such as these is very important. These coalitions are strong forces with great influence in the medical areas they represent.
Patient advocacy work is important, however, you should also know that nonprofit groups (501c3) are severely limited by law in the amount of funding that can go toward advocacy work. In this regard we need your help, please: