The American Diabetes Association Convention is probably one of the most anticipated conferences in the world of Diabetes. I too, was equally excited when I got the oppurtiny to attend as a DeDoc Voice (https://www.dedoc.org). The #dedoc° voices scholarship program grants diabetes advocates access to some of the world's most renowned scientific conferences, such as ADA, EASD, ISPAD and ATTD. It ensures that the voice of 'lived experience' is brought to these events.
And what a conference it was- the bustling of energy, the exchange of new topics and the hours of networking. Whilst all the scientific panels were talking about the new developments in diabetes tech, care and treatment, I will today give you a slightly more personal diary of my experience with thoughts as someone with lived experience.
I attended several lectures about the advancements of technology, the wonders of closed loop, gaps in care, telemedicine and more. There was also a session about 'language' which made me very happy that this important topic is now on stage in every scientific conference!
One thing however, was the overwhelming input of data in all the sessions. Whilst data is of course imperative for any kind of future policy work, there was little being said about how that data could be used as solutions to tackle problems. I found this especially in the sessions about stigma, and maybe this is coming more from a perspective of lived experience, but I couldn't help myself ask the question what should we do about it? Science and research is only relevant if it actually reaches the people it is being studied about.
I witnessed a wonderful panel discussion at the Data Exchange about the elephant in the room which is Access and other barriers to change. Access to tech, as it seems, are influenced by a myriad of factors. The basics being cost, availability and purchasing power. But also, deeper factors such as implicit bias, assumptions of upkeep, stigma and support. As a community, it's important to recognise these factors of influence and work together not only with industry, but also healthcare professionals to bridge the gap with peer support and education.
In all the hustle and bustle of meetings and seminars, Renza Schibilia and I also launched an open letter about Diabetes stigma into the community. It got an overwhelmingly positive response, further re-iterating the importance of discussing stigma, specially at medical and scientific conferences.
The cherry on the cake was receiving my bronze journey coin from Jeff Hitchcock for completing 15 healthy years with the condition. These little mementos truly help in motivation and the feeling of being 'seen'.
All in all - ADA was a super energy packed, albeit hectic few days of learning, engaging with stakeholders, launching projects and the best- meeting fellow advocates in the world of Diabetes. It's a gentle reminder of the advancements being made, and a humble reminder of all we need to do to ensure its unilateral and equal access.
Till next time..
Jazz Geet Sethi is the Founder / Director of the