Headaches in D.C.

Voorhees resident travels to Capitol Hill for migraine advocacy

Voorhees resident Julienne Verdi is also executive director of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy (AHDA), founded in 2003. Its role is to advocate for the more than 40 million people across the country who experience migraines.

Instead of spending Valentine’s Day with some wine and a candlelit dinner, Julienne Verdi and 275 others from around the country traveled to Washington, D.C., to make the case that migraines aren’t just headaches.


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A Voorhees resident, school board member and attorney, Verdi is also executive director of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy (AHDA), which was founded in 2003 and has held its D.C. event, “Headache on a Hill,” since 2007. 


During that initial meeting on Capitol Hill, AHDA successfully requested that Congressional   appropriations committees advocate for an increase in NIH (National Institutes of Health) funding for migraine and headache disorders research.  


“Migraine and headache disorders are more than just a headache,” said Verdi, who is among the 40 million Americans who suffer with the disorder. “They are complex neurological conditions with a myriad of symptoms beyond often extreme head pain, such as cognitive impairment; vision impairment; loss of motor control;  sensory issues; nausea; and vomiting, to name just a few.”


Verdi explained that chronic migraines are defined as 15 or more headaches a month and  affect one in six people nationwide. 


“There is a strong genetic factor in (migraines) …” Verdi explained. “Both my mother and father had migraines, and for years growing up, my dad would say, ‘Oh, I have a sinus headache,’ and he would take self medication (Advil). So for years that’s what I would do. 


“I thought it was normal to have a headache every day.”


As Verdi researched the topic more over the years and talked with friends, she realized that frequent headaches are not normal. But self-medicating is not the best solution for migraines  either.


“I would say (over) self-medication is the wrong way to go,” she noted, “I was having migraines (frequently) and taking ibuprofen every day, and it got so bad, I gave myself stomach ulcers.”


Among the reasons Verdi and the other advocates traveled to Washington was to urge funding for safe medication, specialty care and advanced treatment. Another major initiative for the AHDA is to get increased support for military veterans who suffer migraines.


As part of the AHDA’s legislative agenda, senators and congressmen were encouraged to support a $30-million expansion of the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) Headache Disorders Centers of Excellence program that would increase the number of its spaces from 19 to 28. A particular challenge for local veterans is that the nearest VA center is in New York City. 


“These veterans who need care through the VA have to go through New York City,” Verdi noted. “We think that’s unacceptable. We have a high number of veterans in this area; they should be able to get care here.” 

To learn more about the AHDA, visit its website at https://allianceforheadacheadvocacy.org/

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