What’s up with all the hype? There are so many “hot topics” in any field or industry in our society, and diabetes is no exception. At the 2016 American Association of Diabetes Educators’ (AADE) conference, technology, language, and policies were just a few of the key themes that I saw woven throughout the conference. These were areas that I really had very little knowledge or experience in prior to the conference. Some of the key questions around these topics: “How can humans and technology work together to find solutions to solve the burden of diabetes?” “How does the language that we all use around diabetes support us or tear us down?” and “What types of things can we all do to make strides towards a better future for everyone with diabetes, in light of policies?”
In full disclosure, as involved and passionate I am about diabetes, many times I am not interested in these topics: technology, language, and policy. I am content with the technology I have, my diabetes management is going well, and emotionally, I am pretty okay with having diabetes. I don’t always readily understand how these other topics affect my life, and why I should care. My focus has always been education and support. I firmly believe that every person with diabetes deserves to have high-quality, accessible information, as well as a strong support system, including doctors, nurses, educators, friends, and family. Support and education were absolutely critical in my transition to having diabetes, and are still very important in my day-to-day management of it. Sometimes I feel like the topics we focus on around diabetes end up actually taking the focus off of the person with diabetes, and truly supporting them in the best ways we can. However, at AADE this year, I learned that the exact opposite is true!
With technology this year, everything was about the CGM – the Holy Grail of diabetes technology. To be candid, sometimes I felt like people look at me like I had two heads when I said I don’t have one! I would think: “Don’t you care at all to know how I am managing without one, instead of assuming that I need one? Why do you think I really need one?” Although people certainly mean well by encouraging me to get one, I also find that I can manage well without it. I am also somewhat resistant to change, and although I wasn’t totally convinced at the conference to get a CGM, I did begin to understand more about why people love them so much, and how they are supporting and helping people manage diabetes.
The language conversation really started at the live DSMA (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) Twitter Chat on Thursday evening, sponsored by Roche Diabetes Care. The live DSMA chat was hosted by Cherice Shockley, an advocate in the diabetes community, and a panel of other prominent leaders throughout the community. Questions focused on language were proposed to the group. This was actually an area I had heard some about before the conference but not dove into deeply. The conversations throughout the Twitter chat didn’t always resonate with me; I am not always bothered by people’s language when it comes to diabetes, mostly because I am used to it, or sometimes because I ignore it. But these conversations opened my mind to how language affects everyone differently and how what I say, even living with diabetes myself, can affect others positively or negatively!
I have never been a fan of law, policy, or anything in the realm, ever. As I have moved through college, taken a business law class, and now can vote, I understand some of the basics, and the need for laws and policies. Unfortunately, I have also begun to understand the corruption that can take place, and the negative results of misunderstandings and difficulties surrounding diabetes in the legal systems. When I heard of recent policy changes that impact people’s choice in their diabetes care, I only was focused on myself and the fact that choices didin’t immediately impact me.I really should have been focused on the millions of people that policies currently impacted and what small steps I could take to help make a difference. I began to think of the reality that these things could and probably would impact me at some point in my lifetime, but that even if it didn’t, myself and those around me need me to step up and be a part of change. This was so empowering and exciting for me!
As I began to understand each of these topics and really synthesize what I learned and how I grew through attending the conference, I realized that all of these issues really funnel into support and education. Through the avenues of technology, language, and policies, we can support, educate, and empower those living with and without diabetes. We can help those developing diabetes technologies understand better ways they can help bring us relief and support. We can watch our words, and ask others to do so too, ultimately with the goal of encouraging and empowering people with diabetes. We can even advocate and stand up against policies that prevent people with diabetes from living their life in the best way possible, of course with the goal of educating policy maker and supporting those with diabetes. Throughout the entire conference, I learned so much about what is going on in the diabetes community, and how I can continue to play a large part in that, specifically within The College Diabetes Network (CDN). I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend AADE with CDN this year – to see the impact their work is making in the diabetes community and to have learned so much about support, empowerment, and education!
Editor's note: Support for CDN student attendance was made possible through support and collaboration with NCBDE.