Philly diabetes advocate : Mary Tyler Moore was 'a champion' for the cause

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FILE - This June 24, 2009 file photo shows actress Mary Tyler Moore before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Type 1 Diabetes Research on Capitol Hill in Washington. Moore died Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, at age 80.

It is Mary Tyler Moore the actress that most people were saddened to lose Wednesday, but people like Patrick Delaney, executive director of the King of Prussia chapter of JDRF,  also were missing an advocate for Type 1 diabetes awareness.

JDRF used to stand for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  Moore was found to have juvenile diabetes, now known as Type 1, in 1970, the year the local chapter was founded. It was the nation's first chapter of an organization now based in New York City. 

Moore began volunteering for the foundation in 1984 and soon became its chairwoman.  She raised millions of dollars for research and also raised the profile of a disease that many people still don't talk about.   "It's a very quiet disease," he said.

Delaney said Moore visited the local chapter in the past, but had not done so for many years.

In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, which is essential for moving glucose from the blood to the cells.  It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults.  It accounts for only 5 percent of all diabetes cases; most are Type 2, formerly called adult-onset.   

Before insulin could be used to treat Type 1, the disease was often fatal early in life. While treatments for Type 1 have improved, research published in 2015 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the disease reduced life expectancy an average of 11 years for men and 13 for women.  The study found that the average life expectancy for men with Type 1 was 66.  It was 68 for women.  Moore was 80.

In the 1950s, the gap in life expectancy was about 30 years.  Delaney said Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that can cause widespread damage to organs.

He said Moore's ability to draw attention to the needs of people with the disease will be missed.  "Our hearts go out to Mary's family.  She has been a champion for JDRF," he said. "Her loss is definitely going to be felt by our community."