More MS news articles for January 2001

Actress Kellie Martin Named Health Hero by Reader's Digest

Honored for Her Work With the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association

DETROIT, Jan. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Actress Kellie Martin has been named a 2001 Health Hero by Reader's Digest for her work as national spokesperson for the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA).

Being honored for her efforts to raise awareness of autoimmunity and autoimmune diseases (ADs) as a major women's health issue, Martin's own education unfortunately came too late.  In 1998, her 19-year-old younger sister, Heather, died from complications due to a case of systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) that was repeatedly misdiagnosed.

As a result, she joined forces with AARDA to raise awareness about autoimmunity and ADs which strike some 50 million Americans, 75 percent of which are women.  In her role as spokesperson, Martin has addressed United Nation's (UN) ministers during the UN's Commission on the Status of Women 2000; lobbied Congress, resulting in new legislation signed by President Clinton to create a permanent Autoimmune Disease Coordinating Committee within the Director's Office of the National Institutes of Health; and, shared her story at medical conferences and patient forums across the country.

"We are extremely proud of and thankful for Kellie's hard work and determination which has gone a long way toward making autoimmunity and autoimmune disease household words," said Virginia T. Ladd, president and executive director of AARDA.  "This increased recognition ultimately is translated into research dollars which could lead to better forms of diagnosis, treatment and, perhaps one day, a cure, giving hope to the millions of American women who are living and coping with these diseases everyday."

Featured on the cover of Reader's Digest's February 2000 issue, Martin is one of seven Americans who are being honored as 2001 Health Heroes for their significant contribution toward improving health and eradicating diseases. Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, scleroderma, insulin-dependent diabetes, cardiomyopathy and chronic active hepatitis are caused by immunity against one's own body.  It is the process whereby the immune system mistakenly recognizes the body's own proteins as foreign invaders and produces antibodies that attack healthy cells and tissues, causing various diseases.  A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health (September 2000) ranks autoimmune disease as one of the 10 leading causes of death among women age 65 and younger.

AARDA is the nation's only organization dedicated bringing a national focus to autoimmunity as a category of disease and a major women's health issue, and promoting a collaborative research effort in order to find better treatments and a cure for all autoimmune diseases.

For more information, please visit AARDA's web site at or call 800-598-4668.

SOURCE American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
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