State Service.

It’s been a wild ride through November. Among the many things I’ve been a part of this month, I attended my first meeting as a member of the Maryland State Advisory Council on Health and Wellness.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I strolled into the Department of Health on November 15. What I found was not only a warm reception, but real enthusiasm among the participants, including the Secretary of the state’s Department of Health.

As I mentioned before, this is a fairly large group… 34 members, from all walks of life. Mostly state employees, members of organizations like the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association, and medical professionals. There are only a couple like me, who are patients or patient advocates with no official affiliation.

Our members come from all over the state, which is good, because we’re very diverse geographically and population-wise. There is a huge difference between the people who live in fertile farmland east of the Chesapeake Bay, people who live in the more urban areas of Baltimore, Annapolis, and the D.C. suburbs, and the Appalachian mountain counties out west.

This diversity shows a number of disparities in diagnoses for various chronic conditions. It also indicates a need to concentrate more on certain conditions in certain parts of the state. I suspect that will be part of what our work will entail over the next two years.

How did our group come into being? Well, the state legislature passed a law that, among other things, created this council. We’re funded by a federal block grant designed to help states determine best practices in chronic disease prevention and treatment.

Our group will have four committees initially… one on heart disease and stroke, one on arthritis, one on diabetes, and one on physical fitness. I’m hoping to be placed on the committee on diabetes; that is yet to be determined.

One other thing I found out at this meeting: In my state alone, there are over 70 positions on boards and commissions that are currently unfilled. On subjects ranging from Medicaid to congenital and hereditary diseases, there are a number of ways that the people of my state can get involved.

How did I get involved? I went to the Department of Health website to do research on this topic, and found a web page announcing the formation of our Council. I completed the application and an ethics disclosure form, and uploaded my resume. A month or so later, I was notified that I was appointed to the Council.

The work we’ll be doing is not easy. I’ll be committing time and energy toward helping all Marylanders living with and affected by numerous chronic conditions, including diabetes. But here’s the thing:

I might be special because I’m part of this advisory council. But I wasn’t selected because I’m special. I was selected because I asked, and because there’s a need, and because I want to do more to help my fellow citizens.

My state and others have lots of initiatives, some with the help of federal funding, that might be the perfect place for you to raise your voice. As advocates, we’ve asked for this for a long time. I don’t know how this will turn out, but I’m going to seize the opportunity while I can. Why not?

CLICK HERE for more on Maryland’s Advisory Council on Health and Wellness

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