Senate Appropriations Committee Gives On-Going Support to LRI-Initiated National Lupus Health Education Program

Recognizes Critical Need, Includes $1 Million in Appropriations

The Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations bill for health programs approved by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on July 29 includes $1 million in continued support for the national lupus health education program for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers.

“The Lupus Research Institute (LRI) National Coalition of state and local lupus organizations is very pleased that the Senate has made this invaluable commitment to lupus education among healthcare providers,” said LRI President Margaret G. Dowd.

In addition to successfully advocating for initial funding for the national lupus health education program in 2008, the LRI National Coalition was the first in 2010 to tell Congress about the ongoing need as groups from New York, California, Detroit, Chicago, Florida, and other states and cities around the country hit the Hill on March 4th with the call for continuing support for lupus.

“The LRI National Coalition has vigorously advocated for funding of the clinical education programs on lupus as they reduce the barrier of racial disparity in the diagnosis and treatment of lupus,” said Dowd. ”The entire lupus community, including the families and friends of everyone with lupus, is deeply indebted to the U.S. Senate for their on-going support.”

Educating Health Care Providers about Lupus

The education program is led by the Office of Minority Health in the federal Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with the U.S. Surgeon General and the Office of Women’s Health and implemented through the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

If approved by a Congressional conference committee, the $1 million would add to the $2.6 million in federal funding already secured to date for the national lupus physician and health care provider education program.

The Senate’s statement notes that the Committee remains “very concerned” about racial disparities in general and particularly about barriers to early medical diagnosis of lupus, which is up to three times more common among African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans than among Caucasians: “The Committee continues to support this critically important national education effort to engage health professionals and schools of health professions in working together to improve lupus diagnosis and treatment through education.”

LRI National Coalition’s Commitment to Communities in Need

Member groups of the LRI National Coalition began their outreach to address racial disparities in lupus by facilitating diagnosis and assisting in patient care in underserved communities over 10 years ago, with the creation of the first neighborhood “Lupus Cooperative” in East Harlem (founded by S.L.E. Lupus Foundation of New York in 1999). Lupus Cooperatives have since been opened in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and the South Bronx, both areas with large African-American and Hispanic populations. Recently this successful program was expanded to Los Angeles County.

Over the years, the LRI National Coalition also has created visibility for the needs of underserved populations through awareness building, advocacy, and education programs on the national, state, and local levels. It was behind the first lupus advocacy day of 2010, blanketing Capitol Hill in person and through social networking nationwide with the message to support federal programs for eliminating racial disparities in access to good care and treatment—as well as to increase government research funding of lupus and enhance access to care.