This year has been an exciting year diabetes wise and the month of July was an immensely busy time for me. I hope to be able to reassemble the events I have attended and been a part of! First up, the National Diabetes Strategy Launch.
National Diabetes Strategy Launch
Agreeing to fly interstate the day before a major exam is always a risky idea. Especially if you’re catching the last flight home. It was absolutely worth every near heart attack moment though. I was honoured to be in attendance at the launch of the National Diabetes Strategy and speak to the MPs as a representative from both the IDF & Young Leader’s Program and the recently launched Diabetes Australia Young Leaders Program. Throughout the day, I had the opportunity to speak to various people from various diabetes organisations all over Australia. It was inspiring to hear of all the other programs and fundraising that each state has been working on as well as their future plans. Mostly, it was absolutely amazing to meet Sir Michael Hirst, President of the IDF. He blew me away with his passion for diabetes management and care on an international level. He’s also a fantastic and engaging speaker. Check him out if you get the chance.
The National Diabetes Strategy is a proposed plan consisting of 5 goals to support those currently living with diabetes of any sort as well as to reduce the number of preventable diabetes diagnosis.
- Goal 1: To prevent complications via optimal management and earlier diagnosis.
This goal is broken down into 6 further strategies to work towards this goal. This includes things such as emphasising the importance of early detection of any complications, working on programs teaching people with diabetes with self management ad access of treatment for everyone. My personal favourite is Action 6: ‘Stop discrimination against people with diabetes and put an end to the social stigma surrounding diabetes’. As a nation or in the medical field, we tend to be very focussed on medical issues that can be diagnosed using numbers. Yet the most neglected thing is the very weapon to help us manage our diabetes as best we can – our mental health.
- Goal 2: To prevent more people from developing type 2 diabetes.
The goal breakdown for this includes the talk of a National Diabetes Prevention Program for those who are high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the use of screening or assessment tools for type 2 diabetes, as well as promoting and encouraging physical activity from a young age. Very important in the age of technology and laziness.
- Goal 3: To reduce the impact of diabetes in pregnancy for mothers and children.
Gestational diabetes is something that is often brushed over. It’s good to see that these guys are being included as well. The actions for these include things like raising awareness of the risk factors associated with gestational diabetes, identification and management of this population group as well as ongoing support and monitoring of mothers who have had gestational diabetes and their children during their early years of life. Another very important aspect to consider as even mothers without gestational diabetes often feel a sense of shock and abandonment after being sent home to cope alone with their newborn.
- Goal 4: To reduce the impact of diabetes in Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Australians.
This is probably Australia’s most vulnerable and fragile population. Therefore it only makes sense that extra attention and resources are available to help them, which is precisely what the actions seem to be formulated around. These include things such as raising awareness, culturally appropriate health care, development of a prevention program specific to their needs and access to services to help with diabetes management.
- Goal 5: To strengthen prevention, care and cure through knowledge and evidence.
Fear not fellow PWDs, people with type 1 diabetes don’t miss out. Understandably, prevention and cure for type 1 diabetes is still a mirage that is coming in the next 5 years. However, in the meantime, rest assured that plenty of research is currently underway for that illustrious cure for our broken pancreas. Aside from research, actions around this goal looks into improvements in diabetes management as well as more funding into investigating the social burden of diabetes and a holistic approach to diabetes management.
These definitely sound well and good to me. But again, these are only proposed goals and actions. It’s partly up to the government to help in terms of funding and everyone who cares who be a driver of this. Like many things in our society, WE bring about the change we want to see. Given that diabetes is well known to the average person, there is more capacity to raise awareness of the various types of diabetes (there’s over 60 types of diabetes out there!). The average person would be well aware of risk factors associated with developing type 2 diabetes. Why are we not doing more on this? What are the barriers preventing people to make positive changes? What can we do on a large scale to help promote a healthy lifestyle? It’s never easy to implement a national program but this is something I’m absolutely passionate about and will go to great reaches to help make this a reality.
At the dinner after the launch, I presented to the MPs. Just a little snapshot about the daily challenges PWDs face as well as the grey area between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. People were never meant to be classified into neat categories. Diabetes is the same. I told them my story of the confusion that is my diabetes and the difficulties I faced in accessing services I thought would be beneficial to me but were denied simply because of a black and white form. I made them aware of the existing stigma that overshadows not only people living with diabetes but rears its ugly head within diabetes communities at times because of stereotyping and lack of clarification. I have little tolerance for discrimination, particularly of this sort and most exceptionally when I’m involved in it (obviously). If one person has faced issues like these, there will be others out there struggling too. I’m hoping that these will be more than words and that some action will start to formulate.
FYI: I had a heart attack moment when my taxi didn’t arrive after my talk to whisk me to the airport to catch my last flight home. However, after having the venue call numerous taxis, one finally arrived and I did make my plane home. I also made it to my exam, albeit still in a haze of inspiration, wonder and feeling incredibly lucky and humbled to meet some of the people who have worked ridiculously hard to get this happening. In case you’re wondering, yes – I did pass my exam. Happy days