Over the weekend, I attended the Diabetes Expo, which was presented by Diabetes Victoria. Initially I was a little bit unsure about some of the invited speakers but I decided to head along with an open mind; a piece of advice I would recommend for any diabetes-related event you attend.
During the day, separate sessions for people with type 1 diabetes and people with type 2 diabetes ran at the same time with exception to men’s and women’s health topic. There was also a trade display where diabetes technology, allied health organisations and other fun stuff were showcased. Oddly though, the program didn’t include a lunch break, which meant that we had to miss out on a session or two if we wanted to grab a bite or browse the trade display.
As expected, I went through an array of reactions and emotions as I live tweeted from the sessions I sat in on. There was inspiration, horror, laughter and moments of facepalming or vigorous cheering.
Inspiration was listening to the wide range of research that is happening in Victoria, which will be funded through the Diabetes Australia Research Program. While research towards ‘the cure’ is always necessary, it is great to see projects that aim to help people who currently live with diabetes too.
Horror was listening to birth defects and complications in pregnancy that women with diabetes face if our HbA1c is not in target range. I would have preferred to be empowered through hearing women with diabetes overcome their challenges during pregnancy, rather than be faced with scare tactics.
Laughter was listening to an associate professor without diabetes describe his experiences from wearing an insulin pump and CGM for 24 hours. Questions of “where do I put my pump” and “where is that sound coming from” are all too real.
Moments of facepalm included the close loop system being described as a way to reverse type 1 diabetes. It was also disappointing that the role of genetics in type 2 wasn’t brought up, perhaps providing false hope that type 2 diabetes is ‘reversible’ for all. It also perpetuates the stigma that diabetes is purely related to lifestyle factors.
Moment of vigorous cheering was this response to an audience member who brought up changing the name of diabetes to reduce stigma. By insisting that a name change of type 1 diabetes occurs, we’re further stigmatising people with type 2 diabetes. We’re essentially saying to them “you smell, we don’t want to have anything to do with you”. Rather than “let’s stand up to the bullies together”. No.
In general, I thought the day was a great success. I understand it must have been tough to tailor topics to such a diverse audience. Most importantly, it was great to see the presence of consumers, diabetes organisation, healthcare professionals and industry in the same place. Let’s hope for more collaboration between these groups and future events in the future!