Earlier this month, I attended the 77th American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions in San Diego, CA. My second time attending, I was once again awed by the number of attendees (14,000+), the scientific posters, the educational sessions, and the exhibit hall with companies sharing the latest (and greatest) advancements in the world of diabetes.
This year, I noticed a shift in the sessions and the exhibit floor. Rather than focusing on diabetes as a stand-alone chronic illness, there was much discussion about diabetes and complications such as heart disease. There were significant conversations about diabetes and cardiovascular disease both during sessions and from industry partners. I also noticed a focus on some of the psycho-social aspects of diabetes.
One of the sessions I attended focused on Language: ADA – AADE Joint Consensus Statement on the Use of Language in Diabetes. I was pleased to see this in the program, as last year, an industry partner sponsored an evening session that opened the floor to great discussion about the words clinicians use when addressing people living with diabetes. This year, the focus was greater, with a standing room attendance in the session. Diabetes advocates Jane Dickinson, RN, PhD, CDE, Susan Guzman, PhD, and Melinda Maryniuk, Med, RD, CDE, spoke passionately about the importance of language and how it can create bias within both the diabetes community and the general public. Jane, who also lives with type 1 diabetes, shared personal experiences, Susan shared how words like “non-compliant” and “uncontrolled” hinder patient-clinician care, and Melinda shared portions of the ADA-AADE Joint Consensus Statement. The Statement includes five guiding principles for clinicians:
- Use language that is neutral, non-judgmental and based on facts
- Use language free from stigma
- Use language that is strength-based and respectful
- Use language that fosters collaboration between clinical and patient
- User language that is person-centered
These principles resonated greatly with me and the mission and vision of DiabetesSisters. Our focus to educate and support women living with diabetes without judgment aligns perfectly with the Statement. I am excited to see these standards become the norm in clinical settings.
The day the sessions started, patient organizations were also met with news of Diabetes Hands Foundation winding down their operations, and their online communities being shifted to Beyond Type 1. In the spirit of the Diabetes Online Community, we quickly arranged a meetup to bid farewell to Diabetes Hands Foundation. Diabetes Hands Foundation paved the way for many patient advocates to amplify their voices and offered peer support in a way no other diabetes organization had previously achieved, and it was an honor to represent DiabetesSisters and thank founder Manny Hernandez for the organization he co-founded. Together with leaders from College Diabetes Network, Connected in Motion, DiabetesMine, Diabetes Daily, and many others, we recognized the organization that helped many of us pave our own ways.
This year, DiabetesSisters was invited to present the preliminary results of DiabetesSistersVoices, our research project with Hopkins University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During our moderated poster session, we spoke about how DiabetesSistersVoices is paving the way for women living with diabetes to drive research. I am thankful to all our members who have engaged online the last few months, helping us better understand what is needed to live better with diabetes. While I can’t disclose much about the research now, please look for our final paper later this year.
I also spent many hours meeting with our industry partners, thanking them for their support of our programs and services, and discussing ways to continue partnering in 2018 and beyond. It is safe to say that our partners understand the importance and relevance of our work and continue to find ways to provide support as we move forward.
I am thankful for the American Diabetes Association, who granted me a Press Pass to attend the sessions, and am looking forward to next year’s meeting in Orlando, FL.