Guest Contributor: Asha Brown
Part of the overall mission of We Are Diabetes is to promote support and awareness about diabetes and eating disorders, and I have eagerly taken every opportunity to present on this topic ever since WAD was launched in January 2012. There have been many memorable experiences, but having the opportunity to present and share my personal recovery story at the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE15) annual meeting in New Orleans this summer is going to be a tough one to top!
The trip was highly successful. Our presentation entitled “Effective Strategies for Identifying an Eating Disorder and Navigating Treatment Options for Patients with Type 1 Diabetes and an Eating Disorder (ED-DMT1)” was very well received. As a stage and film performer for over 25 years (I was cast in my first film the very same year I was diagnosed with T1D) I knew I wanted to use my creative performance skills to help educate our audience at AADE. After spending months collaborating with my presentation team (Marcia Meier RN, CDE, and Dawn Taylor PsyD, LP, both practitioners at the Park Nicollet Melrose Center) we crafted a presentation that incorporated a high quality voice recording of the “inner thoughts” of someone struggling with ED-DMT1. We began with a small role-playing sequence that educates the audience about using positive reinforcement (versus “scare tactics”) when working with patients with ED-DMT1, and followed with an insightful section on what the elements of ED-DMT1 treatment look like.
Our unique approach to sharing insight about what goes on in the head of someone struggling with ED-DMT1, and on how to effectively communicate with a patient you suspect might be struggling with ED-DMT1, were very appreciated. Our presentation group spent quite a long time after our session receiving many animated “thank you’s” from the health care professionals in attendance!
Marcia and I also had the opportunity to be interviewed for two endocrinology publications during our time spent at AADE. Having this very serious topic addressed at this years AADE conference was a huge achievement in our overall mission to spread awareness and effectively educate the health care professionals that work with Type 1 diabetics on a daily basis.
When I hear about all of the frustrating and tragic tales from my clients as to how their Endocrinologist, CDE, or RD dismissed or did not take their struggles “seriously”, I’ve always had the belief that it’s not that health professionals don't care about their patients (or think that they’re lying), but that these providers are totally at a loss as to how to support their patient and probably have no idea where to even start! Due to our nation's clinics and hospitals being crunched for time, pressured to produce results, and (in my personal opinion) totally mismanaged in regards to making patients a first priority, our providers don't have the time to research potential co-occurring conditions that their patients face. Which also means they don't have the resources to help their patients who are struggling. In order to effectively change the way that ED-DMT1 is addressed, we must establish better relationships with the healthcare providers that routinely treat Type 1 diabetics; they need our help just as much as we need theirs!
Asha Brown has been living with diabetes since she was five years old. She is the Founder and Executive Director of We Are Diabetes, and currently lives in the Mineappolis area with her husband.