Over the two main days of the Australian Diabetes Society and Australian Diabetes Educators Association, I was sick. My body loves timing these things well and over this week, I finally conceded defeat and took time off for the first time in a long while. Although that meant missing most of the conference, I was still able to get down to the Technology in Diabetes session on Wednesday as well as the Consumer Outreach Program on the Friday.
Disclaimer: I was sponsored by OzDOC to attend the Consumer Outreach Program on the basis of shamelessly plugging of one of the best communities I have ever been involved with.
Technology in Diabetes (Wednesday)
I am so excited about the prospect of researchers and clinicians acknowledging and utilising technology in their diabetes services. Discussed technology ranged from apps to web based services to telehealth services and even incorporating existing tools into clinical settings. Interestingly, the common denominator I’ve taken away from this session was that technology should never be used in isolation. They are designed to be incorporated into a multidisciplinary setting, so why aren’t we seeing more of this in practice? I loved the idea Associate Professor Anthony Russell trialed of having a multidisciplinary diabetes team videoconferencing with patients. It only makes sense. Sadly, there currently only seems to be government funding for it in remote and rural places of Australia. With the growth of online technology, future options for healthcare is vast. As Dr Kathleen Gray so aptly put it, there needs to be a change in learning models to incorporate the numerous health care devices we have and social media.
Consumer Outreach Program
This is the first time that ADS/ADEA have incorporated sessions specifically for consumers. However, it would have been nice if the speakers were notified about their intended audience as well. I darted off to the Nutrition in Diabetes session in the morning, which I found to be particularly informative. Rumors had it that they had tried to fight for a larger room, however, it just wasn’t to be and as a result, many people missed out on it. In summary, evidence favoured an overall lowering of carbohydrates in helping to manage BGLs. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that an over restriction of carbohydrates in the diet is associated with lower emotional well being and cognition. So I guess the take home message is to be sensible about your eating habits. However, sensible doesn’t sell, hence the popularity of these fad diets such as the Paleo diet, which as Associate Professor Tim Crowe points out, is more of a lifestyle than a diet. Besides, the diets of our paleolithic ancestors varied greatly from location to location. Plus I doubt many of them had access to foods such as buttered coffee of coconuts.
Admittedly, I felt extremely out of my depth in the exercise session. I could blame it on the hypo I had at the start of the session, but really, the talks were all aimed at clinicians with the use of complex terminology. Generally, it was fantastic to hear that more research is being done on the effects of sedentary behaviour but also seeing practical solutions to these problems. I love it when people are solution focused! To many times, researchers and clinicians talk at length about problems but are quick to shut down any solutions because they have already deemed it to be to difficult to implement or sustain. So special shout out to the team at Baker IDI for their solutions-based research.
My favourite session of the day was undoubtedly “The Great Debate” on achieving targets between healthcare professionals and consumers. It was such a joy to be involved with this debate as it turned into a discussion between other healthcare professionals in the room and consumers. It was engaging, entertaining and informative. Not only that, I felt that the session gave everyone invaluable insight into what goes on in the minds of healthcare professionals and consumers. That being said, I have to say that the healthcare professional team probably had some of the most understanding endocrinologists as representatives, which was appointed extra brownie points from the consumer team.
Overall, the whole day came across like it was still primarily aimed at researchers and clinicians. For a “Consumer Outreach” program, this wasn’t appropriate and I doubt many speakers were aware of this program to tailor their presentations to their audience. Many consumers who attended felt like second class citizens, particularly around meal times where consumers’ food were served in a separate area far away from other delegates. At the end of the day, ADS/ADEA have taken an enormous step towards attempting to engage consumers in their Annual Scientific Meeting and they should be commended on that. The embrace of social media and twitter feeds on screens were also definitely welcomed. But at the same time, much needs to be improved for next year’s conference.