This week, US Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Cory Booker and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced the Sickle Cell Care Expansion Act, legislation to strengthen the medical workforce that treats sickle cell disease (SCD).
International content experts and sickle cell leaders around the world were invited to evaluate and endorse the bill. Dr Akshat Jain, a renowned international hematologist who specializes in sickle cell disease and has advocated for better access to care both in the US House and Senate over the past decade said, “The Sickle Cell Care Expansion Act will make great strides in addressing the unmet needs of both sickle cell disease providers and patients. The Act will empower the next generation of healthcare providers that care deeply about this disadvantaged population by providing scholarships and loan repayment assistance. Most importantly, this legislation will create a roadmap for a seamless transition of care for children suffering from sickle cell disease as they enter into adulthood,” as his official endorsement of the bill.
Sickle Cell is a painful lifelong disease that results from a genetic mutation causing the blood cells to distort into a C, or “sickle” shape, reducing their ability to transport oxygen throughout the body and causing serious symptoms such as intense pain, infection, and stroke. Approximately 100,000 Americans are currently living with SCD.
India has the second largest density of the Sickle Cell Gene in the world after sub-Saharan Africa and has been identified as a major medical health necessity by the Government of India.
Dr. Jain was joined by Senator Cory Booker who endorsed “Far too often, people living with sickle cell disease face systemic barriers to accessing the care they need to live full, healthy lives,”.
The Sickle Cell Care Expansion Act will enable the National Health Service Corps to provide educational incentives such as loan repayment assistance and scholarships for those studying hematology, create competitive grants to increase awareness about SCD and resources available to patients, and it provides additional resources for hospitals to further fund support services for young adults 18-29 transitioning from pediatric to adult care as well as research into the needs of this patient population.