ACTION ALERT: Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2017 (HR 1187)

March 21, 2017

In early March 2017,  the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) publicly made known that the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2017, also known as HR 1187 was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on February 16, 2017.  HR 1187 addresses public awareness efforts and research funding for functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders like IBS, as well as improved efforts at coordination of research efforts and prescription drug approval among federal entities and the functional GI and motility disorder community.

This is similar to the bill that was known in the 112th Congress in 2011-2012 as HR 2239, in the 113th Congress in 2013-2014 as HR 842 and in the 114th Congress as HR 2311. Because the composition of Congress changes with each federal election, it is not unusual for legislation that does not pass to be reintroduced in future sessions under different bill numbers depending on the date of introduction.

IBS Impact thanks IFFGD  for its ongoing work of many years in bringing this bill to fruition, and urges readers who are U.S. citizens to advocate for this landmark legislation on behalf of people with IBS and related disorders. As with the previous versions of the Act, HR 1187, was introduced by Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI-5) as the initial sponsor. On March 13, 2017, Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI-2), a co-sponsor of HR 2311 in the previous Congress, became the first co-sponsor of HR 1187.

Past versions of the Act have been supported by both political parties and it is a revenue-neutral bill, meaning no new spending or taxes are involved. However, through this legislation, Congress can direct the National Institutes of Health to allocate existing discretionary resources specifically to IBS and other functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders, such as GERD, gastroparesis, chronic idiopathic psuedo-obstruction, functional dyspepsia, short bowel syndrome, Hirschsprung’s disease, cyclic vomiting syndrome, chronic bowel incontinence from various causes, and many others, which collectively affect about 25% of Americans. Irritable bowel syndrome is the most common of these. NIH grants funding to researchers throughout the world, not just in the U.S., so in the long run, enactment of this Act may also benefit readers with IBS in other countries. Medical research often involves multinational teams of scientists, and in any case, study results are usually published globally, adding to cumulative scientific knowledge among professionals and public awareness of various conditions worldwide.

In order to pass the House of Representatives in this Congress, HR 1187 needs support from 218 Representatives, a majority of the House, by the end of the current 115th Congress in December 2018. During 2011-2012, the previous bill received sponsorship or co-sponsorship from 17 Representatives in 12 states and both political parties, in 2013-2014, 20 Representatives from 13 states and both political parties, and in 2015-2016, 13 Representatives from 7 states and both political parties. Some are no longer members of the House of Representatives, but IBS Impact hopes that previous cosponsors who are still in office will continue their support and encourage their colleagues to sign on as well. Now affected people and our supporters must show Congress that this is important enough to pass and enact.

For more information, see IFFGD’s link at: https://iffgd.org/advocacy-activities/congressional-bill.html
The text of the bill, the current status and cosponsors can also be accessed directly at any time through its official Congressional database entry at Congress.gov. If you do not know who your Representative is, you can look up this information by entering your zipcode in the “Find Your Representative” search box with the white U.S. map graphic near the top right corner of your screen at house.gov. In some zipcodes, different areas fall into two or more different Congressional districts, in which case you will then be prompted to enter your exact street address to determine the correct district.

Clicking on your Representative’s name will take you to his or her official House website, which will have contact forms, links or details. If you already know who your Representative is, you can generally find the website by typing his or her name into any Internet search engine. Because modern security procedures for postal mail may result in significant delays, legislators generally prefer to hear from constituents through email/website contact forms or telephone. If you choose to call, it is preferable to ask for the staff person in charge of health issues, but if he or she is not available, you may leave a message or speak to the person who answers your call. Many legislators also have social media accounts.

Your specific personal experiences as a person with IBS and/or other functional gastrointestinal disorder or a family member, friend or professional who supports us, and how HR 1187 is needed are most effective in communicating that we are real people behind the statistics. However, even a polite general request can demonstrate to your Member of Congress that there are many constituents interested in the swift passage of this Act.

When writing and/or calling, be sure to state your name, where you live in the Congressional district and that you are a constituent. Tell briefly why you are interested in HR 1187 so they know who you are and why the bill is important– such as have had IBS for X years, have had difficulty finding adequate relief or have a family member with IBS, etc. If you are prepared with a few reputable facts and details about IBS in general to show that this is a widespread issue, not just your personal problem, these also help in showing credibility on the issue. The IFFGD link above has some suggested talking points.  Familiarity with your Representative’s record on or interest in other health issues may also help,  but if you do not know these things, telling your own experience is fine. Be sure to say thank you. Then pass the word to family, friends, coworkers or classmates who have been supportive of you with your IBS. Keep in mind that because of the 2016 elections and redistricting, you may have a different Representative than before, even if you have not changed your residence.

Please sign your real full name, physical address and email address if you choose to write,  or give this information to the staff member you speak to you choose to call on the telephone. Most offices will request it near the end of the call so that they have a record of callers and issues discussed. This is important so that Congressional staff members know that you are actually a constituent and potential voter in their district. Many legislators do not accept communications from those outside their own districts. They may also wish to respond to you, although it may take several attempts to attract attention or some time to receive a reply. Please contact only your member of the U.S. House of Representatives at this time. The President, Senators, Governors or other state or local officials do not have any control over this part of the legislative process.

You do not have to be an excellent writer or speaker, just one that your Representative and his or her staff will see as a real person with real issues and real needs, not a “canned” request copied and pasted from somebody else’s letter. Keep your message short– one page or less in writing, or a phone message or conversation of a couple minutes.

This is a major opportunity for the IBS community and its various websites, groups and organizations to come together, regardless of political or philosophical differences, make our needs known, and do something to make our lives better in the future. Self-advocacy to get legislation enacted takes time, effort and patience, but it is possible if more people are willing to make noise publicly, as other health and disability groups do.

For all those with IBS who complain that nobody understands and nobody wants to do anything for us, now is your chance to make yourself heard. Some people want to understand and help. Congress has the power to make this bill happen. Each of us has the power to make it happen by coming out of the closet, getting over the embarrassment and asking publicly and persistently for this very specific help. It only takes a few minutes to write an email or pick up the phone. Please do it.


Results and Followup to Gastrointestinal Society, Canada 2016 Survey on Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

January 29, 2017

About one year ago, on January 26, 2016, IBS Impact posted a national online survey invitation by the Gastrointestinal (GI) Society, also known as the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research. The GI Society asked adults with diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome and parents/caregivers of children with diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome from across Canada about experiences, opinions and effects of IBS, with the intention of using the results to shape the organization’s programs, as well as future community awareness and advocacy among health care providers and policy makers and the general public.

Last month, the GI Society posted a report, Gastrointestinal Society 2016 Survey Results: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which is available for download in PDF format from the link. Some highlights include the following:

There were a total of 2961 responses from all provinces and territories of Canada, approximately proportional to population. 2505 participants responded in English and 456 in French from the organization’s French-language mirror site. 86% of respondents were female, 14% male. 90% were between the ages of 30-69.

53% had had IBS for more than 10 years. 41% reported IBS-M (mixed subtype, formerly referred to as IBS-A for alternating), 35% IBS-D (diarrhea-predominant subtype), 18% IBS-C (constipation-predominant subtype) and 6% unsure. In a question rating pain in the previous 3 months on a 1-5 scale with 1 as no pain, and 5 as the worst pain, 4% chose 1, 20% chose 2, 39% chose 3, 28% chose 4 and 9% chose 5. Respondents were also asked to rate other common IBS symptom severity as never experience, mild, moderate, and severe.

According to the report, fewer than half of respondents have seen a gastroenterologist. Those who have consulted doctors for IBS mostly see general practitioners. 26% reported not seeing a doctor for IBS at least once a year. Of the remainder, the largest subgroups reported 1-2 visits or 3-5 visits. Small percentages in the single digits each reported 6-10 visits or 11 or more visits. 12% stated they had been hospitalized for IBS. 62% use two or more medications or treatments regularly. 16% stated they cannot afford prescribed treatments and 26% that they can only afford some. Medications commonly used for IBS pain are sufficiently effective for only about one-third. Only 21% of survey participants describe their symptoms as under control, 45% somewhat under control, 34% no symptoms under control. The report notes that these results are similar to a 2015 nationwide survey by the American Gastroenterological Association in the United States, IBS in America.

Most of the GI Society’s respondents also indicate co-existing medical conditions and/or quality of life effects. 83% report the need to limit their diet. 71% report anxiety at least some of the time with 27%  reporting an anxiety disorder diagnosis. 32% have a mood disorder, 27% gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), 24% sleep disorders, 15% fibromyalgia. 76% state that IBS interferes with everyday activities at least some of the time. 37% overall state that in an average month they cannot leave their homes at least some of the time, with higher percentages in the IBS-D subset.  46% of respondents who are employed and/or are students report that they miss time from work or school in an average month due to IBS.

The report concludes that there continue to be unmet treatment and quality of life needs for many Canadians with IBS and that in particular, IBS pain needs improved treatment options, as that remains a significant symptom for most people with IBS that is significantly associated with decreased quality of life. The report also states that the time between symptom onset and diagnosis and diagnosis and relief of symptoms needs to be shortened. This may be possible through increased collaboration between patients and physicians.

The GI Society is asking those who responded in the original survey to participate in a five question online followup survey. The original survey is now completed and no longer available for new replies, but the GI Society also invites those who did not have the opportunity to complete the original survey to answer the followup. At this time, January 29, 2017, the followup questions are open at the original survey link. No closing date for responses is indicated. Please address any questions about this survey directly to the GI Society

http://www.badgut.org/ibs-survey/

IBS Impact commends the Gastrointestinal Society for its efforts to gather and publicize the views of its constituency. We encourage  Canadian readers with IBS or IBS-affected minor children to continue to express and advocate for their needs and desires to the organization and their health care and community services providers and national, provincial and local policy makers through the followup survey and other means. We hope that the survey results amplify and catalyze positive changes for the IBS community in Canada, and by extension, worldwide.

 


Veterans with IBS and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders 2016

November 11, 2016

Today, November 11, is Veterans Day in the U.S., and a good time to highlight veterans’ issues. U.S. veterans  and current military service members who have been deployed in the Persian Gulf/Southwest Asia region at any time since 1990 have been shown by multiple studies to be at even higher risk of IBS and other functional GI disorders than the general population. Conservative estimates put the incidence of functional GI disorders in the general population as 25%, most commonly irritable bowel syndrome. For veterans and military service members of the Persian Gulf era, the estimate may reach as high as 40%. This appears to be in part because of the high incidence of known functional GI risk factors during active duty, such as severe stress or trauma and/or food or water contamination that results in post-infectious IBS  (IBS-PI) or other post-infectious functional GI and motility disorders.

Here is IBS Impact’s August 12, 2011 post on the recognition four years ago by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of irritable bowel syndrome and functional gastrointestinal disorders as presumptive service connected disabilities for Gulf War veterans.

IFFGD has done considerable work in the past several years in advocating for federal funding and other legislative needs specific to veterans, conducting outreach to service members and veterans and encouraging those affected by functional GI and motility disorders to participate in veteran-specific self-advocacy efforts. Since fiscal year 2012, functional GI disorders have been included in the Department of Defense Gulf War Illness Research Program, which is part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. However, advocacy from the veteran community and supporters must occur on an ongoing basis for funding to be continued each fiscal year. Interest in veteran issues has been one reason for Congressional support of the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2015, HR 2311, currently in the House of Representatives, aimed toward improving the lives of affected veterans and civilians alike, and must continue to build.

As this blog reported on January 20, 2014, the depth of need for further awareness, services, support, and research in the veteran community is not necessarily well known even within the Department of Defense or other military entities, the media or the general public. The post linked in the second paragraph of this post about the recognition of IBS and other functional GI disorders as presumptive service-connected disabilities, more than five years after original publication, has continued to receive consistent hits from readers nearly every day. By an extremely wide margin, from the inception of this blog in mid-2011 through 2015, it was the #1 most read individual post, of over 200 cumulative posts on this blog. It was also the #1 most read post for each individual year.  Not until the release of the Rome IV international diagnostic criteria in late May of this year, did it drop to #2 on the all-time and 2016-to-date lists.Clearly, a very strong need exists for information and resources on this topic. It is hoped that given the relatively higher impact of functional GI disorders among veterans and service members, and their relatively higher profile as a constituent group, any advances on behalf of the affected veterans and service members will eventually carry over to people with functional GI disorders in general.

IBS Impact encourages veterans, service members and families in the IBS and functional GI community, as well as those who support them,  to familiarize themselves with the issues and resources, and to consider participating in self-advocacy activities. We look forward to feedback from readers as to how IBS Impact may be able to support such efforts further.


Representatives Engel of New York and Pocan and Kind of Wisconsin Co-Sponsor HR 2311 for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders

July 11, 2016

According to IFFGD/the Digestive Health Alliance and the official Congressional legislative database Congress.gov, Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY-16), Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI-2), and Ron Kind (D-WI-3) have recently signed on as a co-sponsors to the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2015.

Representative Engel is serving his fifteenth term in the House of Representatives. His current district, the 16th Congressional District of New York  encompasses the northern portion of the Bronx, which is one of the boroughs of New York City, as well as parts of suburban southern Westchester County. Representative Engel is the first co-sponsor who is also a current member of the Subcommittee on Health, where HR 2311 is  under consideration.  See the linked website for a list of all current members. Representative Engel has a long record of supporting  a wide range of veterans’ issues and health issues, as seen on his official house website. As previously discussed on this blog on August 12, 2011 and August 25, 2011, military service members and veterans are at disproportionately high risk for functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, which are already very common in the general population.

Representative Pocan is serving his second term in the House of Representatives. His district, the 2nd Congressional District of Wisconsin, encompasses Dane County, Iowa County, Lafayette County, Sauk County and Green County and parts of Richland and Rock Counties, including the state capital of Madison and environs. According to his official House website, Representative Pocan is a member of the House Committee on the Budget, and he supports various health and veterans’ issues.

Representative Kind is serving his tenth term as a member of the House of Representatives. His district, the 3rd Congressional District of Wisconsin, represents the western part of the state, including La Crosse, Eau Claire and Platteville. Representative Kind’s official House website can be found at the link. Representative Kind has a record of supporting veterans’ issues. He is also a former member of the Subcommittee on Health and was also a co-sponsor of HR 2239 in the 112th Congress (2011-2012) and HR 842 in the 113th Congress (2013-2014), previous versions of HR 2311 which did not pass. IBS Impact thanks him for his continuing  support over three successive Congressional terms.

If you are a constituent of Representative Engel, Representative Pocan or Representative Kind,  please take a few minutes to write or call him with your thanks for his support of the functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders community.

In officially supporting HR 2311, Representative Engel, Representative Pocan and Representative Kind  join Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI-5) , who is the initial sponsor,  Representative Andre Carson (D-IN-7), Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19) and Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI-4), Representative David Young (R-IA-3), Representative David Loebsack (D-IA-2), Representative Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12), and Representative David Joyce (R-OH-14), and Representative Sean Duffy, (R-WI-7) If you are a constituent of any of these Representatives, please thank them as well.

U. S. citizens, if your Member of Congress is not yet a co-sponsor of HR 2311, please see the previous post from May 18, 2015 for links to the bill and more details on how to do so.  Often, it takes multiple attempts to elicit any interest from legislators, so if you do not receive a reply, do not hesitate to try again or to switch contact methods until you attract attention. Keep in mind that your Representative may be different from before because of the 2014 elections, district boundaries that may have been re-drawn, or if you have moved.

Your personal experiences as a person with IBS and/or other functional GI/motility disorders, or as a concerned family member, friend or colleague, are most effective in communicating to legislators and their staff that there are real human beings behind the statistics. However, even general expressions of support are helpful.

HR 2311 is bipartisan legislation (supported by members of both parties) and according to IFFGD discussions with IBS Impact,  is “revenue-neutral,” meaning that there will be no additional taxes or spending added to the current federal deficit if it is enacted. Discretionary funds are available at the National Institutes of Health to be allocated if Congress directs NIH, through this Act, that functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders are a priority. Congress will only do so if we, as a community, are able to show them the importance of the research, education and FDA coordination provided for in HR 2311.

NIH grants funding to researchers throughout the world, not just in the U.S., so in the long run, enactment of this Act may also benefit readers with IBS in other countries. Medical research also sometimes involves multinational teams of scientists, and in any case, study results are usually published globally, adding to the cumulative knowledge worldwide.

It is IBS Impact’s understanding that HR 2311 will not require a debate or vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, and will pass as soon as it reaches 218 sponsor/cosponsors, or a simple majority of the House. In order for this milestone to be accomplished during the current Congress, the 114th,  the necessary number of sponsor/cosponsors must be reached by December 2016. Every two years, the Congressional membership will be different as a result of elections. Thus, if HR 2311 has not passed by that time,  a similar bill will have to be reintroduced and the FGIMD community will have to start the process of gathering co-sponsors anew. This is what occurred with HR 2239 in 2012 and HR 842 in 2014. While it is quite common for legislation of various sorts to take several Congresses to pass, our continuing advocacy now can increase awareness, build momentum and perhaps accelerate passage. It is in our hands.

Check back on this blog or join IBS Impact’s Facebook page or Twitter feed for further updates on HR 2311 as they occur. Links to the social media sites can be found on the right sidebar of the blog.


Representative Duffy of Wisconsin Co-Sponsors HR 2311 for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders

July 5, 2016

According to IFFGD/the Digestive Health Alliance and the official Congressional legislative database Congress.gov, Representative Sean Duffy (R-WI-7) has recently signed on as a co-sponsor to the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2015.

Representative Duffy is serving his third term in the House of Representatives. His district, the 7th Congressional District of Wisconsin, encompasses the northwestern and central regions of the state, including Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Chippewa, Douglas, Iron, Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, Polk, Portage, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, Washburn and Wood Counties and parts of Clark and Langlade Counties.  According to his official House website, Representative Duffy has a record of supporting veterans’ issues. As previously discussed on this blog on August 12, 2011 and August 25, 2011, military service members and veterans are at disproportionately high risk for functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, which are already very common in the general population.

If you are a constituent of Representative Duffy,  please take a few minutes to write or call him with your thanks for his support of the functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders community.

In officially supporting HR 2311, Representative Duffy  joins Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI-5) , who is the initial sponsor,  Representative Andre Carson (D-IN-7), Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19) and Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI-4), Representative David Young (R-IA-3), Representative David Loebsack (D-IA-2), Representative Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12), and Representative David Joyce (R-OH-14). If you are a constituent of any of these Representatives, please thank them as well.

According to the information on Congress.gov, it appears that the bill is currently under consideration in the Subcommittee on Health. Click on the link above if you would like to see a list of its members.

U. S. citizens, if your Member of Congress is not yet a co-sponsor of HR 2311, please see the previous post from May 18, 2015 for links to the bill and more details on how to do so.  Often, it takes multiple attempts to elicit any interest from legislators, so if you do not receive a reply, do not hesitate to try again or to switch contact methods until you attract attention. Keep in mind that your Representative may be different from before because of the 2014 elections, district boundaries that may have been re-drawn, or if you have moved.

Your personal experiences as a person with IBS and/or other functional GI/motility disorders, or as a concerned family member, friend or colleague, are most effective in communicating to legislators and their staff that there are real human beings behind the statistics. However, even general expressions of support are helpful.

HR 2311 is bipartisan legislation (supported by members of both parties) and according to IFFGD discussions with IBS Impact,  is “revenue-neutral,” meaning that there will be no additional taxes or spending added to the current federal deficit if it is enacted. Discretionary funds are available at the National Institutes of Health to be allocated if Congress directs NIH, through this Act, that functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders are a priority. Congress will only do so if we, as a community, are able to show them the importance of the research, education and FDA coordination provided for in HR 2311.

NIH grants funding to researchers throughout the world, not just in the U.S., so in the long run, enactment of this Act may also benefit readers with IBS in other countries. Medical research also sometimes involves multinational teams of scientists, and in any case, study results are usually published globally, adding to the cumulative knowledge worldwide.

It is IBS Impact’s understanding that HR 2311 will not require a debate or vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, and will pass as soon as it reaches 218 sponsor/cosponsors, or a simple majority of the House. In order for this milestone to be accomplished during the current Congress, the 114th,  the necessary number of sponsor/cosponsors must be reached by December 2016. Every two years, the Congressional membership will be different as a result of elections. Thus, if HR 2311 has not passed by that time,  a similar bill will have to be reintroduced and the FGIMD community will have to start the process of gathering co-sponsors anew. This is what occurred with HR 2239 in 2012 and HR 842 in 2014. While it is quite common for legislation of various sorts to take several Congresses to pass, our continuing advocacy now can increase awareness, build momentum and perhaps accelerate passage. It is in our hands.

Check back on this blog or join IBS Impact’s Facebook page or Twitter feed for further updates on HR 2311 as they occur. Links to the social media sites can be found on the right sidebar of the blog.


Representative Joyce of Ohio Co-Sponsors HR 2311 for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders

June 28, 2016

According to IFFGD/the Digestive Health Alliance and the official Congressional legislative database Congress.gov, Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH-14) has recently signed on as a co-sponsor to the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2015.

Representative Joyce is serving his second term in the House of Representatives. His district, the 14th Congressional District of Ohio,encompasses the northeastern region of the state bordering Lake Erie and the Pennsylvania, including  Ashtabula, Lake, and Geauga Counties, eastern Cuyahoga County, northern Trumbull County, northern Portage County, and northeastern Summit County. According to his official House website, Representative Joyce is currently a member of the House Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs.  As previously discussed on this blog on August 12, 2011 and August 25, 2011, military service members and veterans are at disproportionately high risk for functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS, which are already very common in the general population. Representative Joyce also is a member of several caucuses supporting other specific health conditions.

If you are a constituent of Representative Joyce,  please take a few minutes to write or call him with your thanks for his support of the functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders community.

In officially supporting HR 2311, Representative Joyce  joins Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI-5) , who is the initial sponsor,  Representative Andre Carson (D-IN-7), Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19) and Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI-4), Representative David Young (R-IA-3), Representative David Loebsack (D-IA-2), and Representative Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12) If you are a constituent of any of these Representatives, please thank them as well.

According to the information on Congress.gov, it appears that the bill is currently under consideration in the Subcommittee on Health. Click on the link above if you would like to see a list of its members.

U. S. citizens, if your Member of Congress is not yet a co-sponsor of HR 2311, please see the previous post from May 18, 2015 for links to the bill and more details on how to do so.  Often, it takes multiple attempts to elicit any interest from legislators, so if you do not receive a reply, do not hesitate to try again or to switch contact methods until you attract attention. Keep in mind that your Representative may be different from before because of the 2014 elections, district boundaries that may have been re-drawn, or if you have moved.

Your personal experiences as a person with IBS and/or other functional GI/motility disorders, or as a concerned family member, friend or colleague, are most effective in communicating to legislators and their staff that there are real human beings behind the statistics. However, even general expressions of support are helpful.

HR 2311 is bipartisan legislation (supported by members of both parties) and according to IFFGD discussions with IBS Impact,  is “revenue-neutral,” meaning that there will be no additional taxes or spending added to the current federal deficit if it is enacted. Discretionary funds are available at the National Institutes of Health to be allocated if Congress directs NIH, through this Act, that functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders are a priority. Congress will only do so if we, as a community, are able to show them the importance of the research, education and FDA coordination provided for in HR 2311.

NIH grants funding to researchers throughout the world, not just in the U.S., so in the long run, enactment of this Act may also benefit readers with IBS in other countries. Medical research also sometimes involves multinational teams of scientists, and in any case, study results are usually published globally, adding to the cumulative knowledge worldwide.

It is IBS Impact’s understanding that HR 2311 will not require a debate or vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, and will pass as soon as it reaches 218 sponsor/cosponsors, or a simple majority of the House. In order for this milestone to be accomplished during the current Congress, the 114th,  the necessary number of sponsor/cosponsors must be reached by December 2016. Every two years, the Congressional membership will be different as a result of elections. Thus, if HR 2311 has not passed by that time,  a similar bill will have to be reintroduced and the FGIMD community will have to start the process of gathering co-sponsors anew. This is what occurred with HR 2239 in 2012 and HR 842 in 2014. While it is quite common for legislation of various sorts to take several Congresses to pass, our continuing advocacy now can increase awareness, build momentum and perhaps accelerate passage. It is in our hands.

Check back on this blog or join IBS Impact’s Facebook page or Twitter feed for further updates on HR 2311 as they occur. Links to the social media sites can be found on the right sidebar of the blog.


Virtual Advocacy Day for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Is June 23, 2016

May 20, 2016

IFFGD has scheduled its annual event, Virtual Advocacy Day (known in some past years as Congressional Call-In Day), in support of HR 2311, the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act for June 23, 2016.

Currently, HR 2311 is officially supported by 7 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing both political parties and 5 states. They are the initial sponsor, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI-5) and co-sponsors, Representative André Carson (D-IN-7), Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19),Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI-4), Representative David Young (R-IA-3), Representative Dave Loebsack (D-IA-2) and Representative Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12).

Virtual Advocacy Day is an excellent opportunity for constituents of current supporters to express their appreciation to their legislators, as well as  for U.S. citizens whose Representatives are not yet co-sponsors to advocate for their support. On June 23, IFFGD and other IBS sites, including IBS Impact, strongly encourage all U.S. citizens with all functional gastrointestinal or motility disorders (for example, irritable bowel syndrome, GERD, gastroparesis, chronic idiopathic psuedo-obstruction, Hirschsprung’s disease,  functional (recurrent) abdominal pain, cyclic vomiting syndrome, functional dyspepsia and many others, which collectively affect at least 25% of the population), concerned family members, friends, co-workers or classmates, health and human service professionals who work with people with functional GI or motility disorders, to call, write  and/or tweet their Representatives about HR 2311. A strong, unified presence by many voices on the same day will make an impression that can pave the way for additional support.

If you know the member of the federal House of Representatives who represents you, the direct telephone number for his or her Washington, DC office and an email contact form can usually be found on his or her official website, which can be located by an Internet search of his or her name. Keep in mind that your Representative may be different from before because of subsequent elections, district boundaries that may have been re-drawn, or if you have moved. If you are not sure who is your Representative, you can look up this information at  http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ or call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 225-3121.

During business hours Eastern time, June 23, if you choose to call your Representative’s office, identify yourself as a constituent and give your name and the town or city in which you reside. Ask to speak to the staff member who deals with health issues. You may be asked for your street address or phone number. This is to confirm that you do live in the Representative’s district and/or to allow the office to contact you to follow up. If you are nervous, in advance of calling, write down notes for yourself or a short presentation to read. You do not have to be an excellent speaker, just a person that the legislator and his or her staff will see as a real person with real needs. Be polite, keep the conversation on topic and limited to a few minutes, and thank the staff person for his or her time. At a minimum, clearly state that you wish for the Representative to support HR 2311, or express your thanks if he or she has already signed on.

Beyond this, you may choose to briefly explain your personal interest and/or experience with functional GI or motility disorders (for example, have had/family member has had irritable bowel syndrome for X years and has had difficulty finding appropriate treatment) and/or why functional GI and motility research and education provided for in HR 2311 are important in general such as what a functional GI or motility disorder or  your specific one of interest, like IBS,  is, how many people it affects, usually affects both genders, all ages, all ethnic groups  that IBS/functional GI disorders are usually chronic. often misdiagnosed or mistreated and effective treatments, providers and local community services are limited. IFFGD has suggested talking points on its website for Virtual Advocacy Day 2016. Thank the staff member again before ending your call. If the staff member who deals with health issues is not available, leave a brief message with the above details on voice mail or with the staff member who answers the phone.

If emailing, see some suggestions in the May 18, 2015 post. It is rare for such advocacy calls and emails to result in an immediate commitment to a particular bill, but one purpose of Virtual Advocacy Day is to create awareness of the needs that affect large numbers of people and momentum for increasing Congressional support.

For more information on HR 2311 and advocacy strategies, including links to the bill, click on the HR 2311 category in the right sidebar of this blog to see all posts on this topic.

IBS Impact urges all U.S. citizen readers of this blog to participate in the important and easy advocacy effort and to spread the word among your supportive relatives, friends and functional GI and motility disorder groups.  The progress of HR 2311 is in our hands.

Check back on this blog or join IBS Impact’s Facebook page or Twitter feed for further updates on HR 2311 as they occur. Links to the social media sites can be found on the right sidebar of the blog.