Wednesday, November 2, 2016

President's message: Celebrating 20 years of the Network

From the Network's president, Bill Coogan:

As we enter this season of giving and acknowledge twenty years of accomplishments, please help us continue to help you. Donate now:

Twenty years ago this summer, Larry Winger created a website to collect information on XLH and then was joined by others to form The XLH Network. The listserv began beta testing in November 1996, and roughly two weeks later, there were subscribers from England, British Columbia, South Africa, and the United States.

A lot has changed since then. We've grown from a community of just a handful of people to a network that reaches thousands of patients and their caregivers. We've gone from not knowing what causes the phosphate wasting to the discovery of the previously unknown hormone, Fibroblast Growth Factor 23 (FGF23). We once viewed the prospect of effective treatment as more science fiction than fact, and now we have a promising new potential treatment on the not-too-distant horizon.

It seems fitting that this anniversary year has been one filled with significant accomplishments. The Network's board has worked hard to maintain all the work of previous years: educating and advocating for the various stakeholders in our community—patients, families and health care providers—by attending medical conferences, sharing what we know about XLH and offering safe places, like our forum and XLH Day, for members to help each other.

Beyond that, though, the anniversary year has also seen some major new initiatives that will come to fruition between now and our twenty-fifth anniversary. The Natural History Study will gather data about the progression of XLH throughout the entirety of patients' lives. For the more personal side of the story, we're collecting stories from our community about living with XLH, for a book entitled Weak Bones, Strong Wills, The Stories of XLH. Several other publications are in the works, including an updated dental brochure and materials to help children of various ages understand their disorder.  

Much of this work is done by volunteers or funded by grants, but there are always uncovered financial costs. The Natural History Study is part of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) Natural History Program and is paid for in large part by an FDA grant to NORD. Still, the Network will need several thousand dollars a year to insure that the study can continue long enough to provide useful data. Volunteers have donated their time to produce our various educational materials, but we'll still need to pay for their publication. XLH Days are a great experience for those who attend, but again, they can't happen without financial support.

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