Despite program and event cancellations nationwide, your vital support ensures the Society can continue adapting and innovating to keep the health, safety and well-being of people with affected by MS first. Here’s a look at what we’re doing to respond and the impact we’re seeing.
Providing Urgent Support
Answers to pressing questions
We're committed to being a reliable source of answers and relief for people affected by MS who are worried about COVID-19. The COVID-19 and MS Resource Center, available at nationalMSsociety.org/COVID19
, was developed in response to a 45% increase in Society website traffic
to provide the most up-to-date information available to the MS community wherever and whenever they need it.
A partner to navigate challenges
MS Navigators are equipped with technology, knowledge and resources to continue delivering support to people affected by MS who need help, even when working from their own homes. Top concerns from the community right now include:
- General information about COVID-19 and MS treatment
- Employment concerns related to job loss and risk of continuing work
- Financial assistance to help with rent, utilities, food and other basic needs
- Emotional support due to increased isolation and anxiety
A woman with MS had contacted the Society for assistance with a cooling vest. Further conversation with the MS Navigator showed that she has had a hard time paying her bills since a recent layoff. She found part-time work as a substitute teacher but was still unable to cover her bills. The MS Navigator provided information about government assistance programs, including food stamps, and was able to connect the woman to these programs.
She also asked for resources for work at home jobs which she is exploring. In the end, the Society provided financial assistance for a cooling vest and rent assistance to help make ends meet in the short-term.
The woman thanked the MS Navigator by saying, “Thank you for your (the Society’s) assistance and being able to provide some relief in a time of such unknowns.”
Virtual programming and events to reduce isolation and maintain wellness
With the inability to connect in person, new and expanded virtual programs and events ensure people with MS can manage physical and emotional challenges and help keep the MS community connected to reduce isolation, maintain wellness and increase resilience.
- New Weekly ‘Ask an MS Expert’ live webinars are engaging thousands of participants every week and are bringing people affected by MS together to get their questions and concerns related to COVID-19 and its impact on their health and wellbeing, answered right away.
- 250 Self-Help Group leaders are connecting during weekly calls to work together, getting what they need to ensure all 1,000 groups can meet virtually because no one should face MS alone.
- A new Facebook Group offers self-paced learning units so that the over 1000 members, including several people newly diagnosed with MS, in over 10 countries, can find direct support from the Society and the MS community online.
- Virtual Walk MS, Bike MS and other events are taking the place of in-person gatherings to keep vital community and morale building connections going and to fuel the mission.
A healthcare community better equipped to deliver care
People with MS need access to healthcare providers who understand the challenges that COVID-19 brings and can deliver vital care. We are supporting these “essential workers” with online forums about COVID-19 and MS, and partnering with Project ECHO to deliver virtual MS and COVID-19 response clinics connecting MS specialists at MS Comprehensive Care Centers with general practice neurologists, physician assistants and nurse practitioners across the country.
Amplifying Voices to Address Urgent Needs
MS activists are helping policymakers understand the perspectives of people affected by MS during this crisis and are influencing future decisions as the pandemic’s impact unfolds. This includes federal stimulus legislation and 49 proposed COVID-19-related policies in states, 23 of which have been enacted
One activist who lives with MS, Mary Rouvelas, helped the Society file a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court last month urging the high court to uphold provisions ensuring healthcare coverage for millions of Americans. The brief provides extensive scientific data showing that access to health insurance, currently at risk for many people living with MS, improves medical outcomes for a wide range of conditions and studies showing that the health law has made a measurable difference in prevention and care.
“My particular area of expertise is public policy and advocacy,” Rouvelas says, “and if I can do some good for people with MS in that arena, I want to do as much as I possibly can.”
Fueling MS Research
With the vital funding of supporters, and the Society’s persistent efforts to advance a global consensus on the most promising pathways to an MS cure, research progress continues. Researchers around the world, including those funded by the Society, are using time away from their labs to publish encouraging results:
- Using advanced imaging techniques that enable visualization of myelin repair processes in real time, researchers from the University of Colorado showed that precisely-timed learning of a motor task enhanced the repair of nerve fiber-insulating myelin in mice.
- Higher blood levels of a molecule called neurofilament light chain (NfL) were associated with progression of disability in blood samples from 4,385 people with MS in a large Swedish study. These findings add to growing evidence that NfL has potential as a predictive biomarker of MS disease activity and disability progression through routine blood tests.