Last year I was lucky enough to able to attend the European Blogger's Summit in Barcelona because of the work Insulin Independent has done with Animas (hosting the event) over the past 3 years. It was an insightful and informative experience with fascinating information on how to increase traffic to blogs, but as a group the overwhelming feedback was that we wanted to really open up a dialogue with each other about the local challenges faced by our respective communities; communities which once a year are stripped of their geographical boundaries and amalgamated into one truly global community. This year, Animas gave us a day, several pots of coffee and a place to talk: the rest came down to us.
What became overwhelmingly clear as we came together and began to talk about the challenges was that while we often face many of the same general hurdles - like access to medical technology, political battle or stigma - the ways in which those challenges play out locally, can be very diverse. The purpose of this meeting was to share our experiences with each other and this year the question which repeatedly raised its head as each blogger took to the presentation stage was this: is there a way you can help us?
But as diverse as the group of people who came together were, we are by no means a true representation of the diabetes community. We are just a few faces of a community whose reach expands across the world. So rather than just give you a run-down of the topics we covered, this post is about how YOU could also get involved.
Spare a Rose
First up Kerri Sparling talked about the Spare A Rose campaign which took the online communities by storm earlier this year. The idea behind the campaign - started by Partnering 4 Diabetes Change (P4DC) and supporting the International Diabetes Federations's (IDF) Life for a Child movement - is that during the highly commercialised event of Valentine's Day, rather than buying a loved one a dozen red roses, instead give the 11 roses, and give the equivalent cost of one red rose (around $5) to the Spare a Rose campaign, which, through the IDF, provides insulin ad education to developing countries where not only is insulin desperately hard to come by, it can keep a child alive for a month - just for the cost of one red rose which may wilt and die within days. Spare a Rose started in America in 2013 and raised an impressive $3,000 in its first wave. But by Valentine's day 2014, it had raised over $24,000, involved more than 24 countries and reached around 8 million people via social media attention. Just imagine what it could do in 2015? So if you tweet, blog, give to charity or feel passionately about the situation in impoverished countries and realise how lucky we are to have a butter compartment stocked full of life-giving insulin, then please give whatever exposure (or donation) you can to #SpareARose.
From Italy we learned from Biagio Barletta that they had been working tirelessly on a campaign to educate and awareness raise about life with diabetes, using Twitter as a platform for change. On the back of the incredible #ShowMeYourPump campaign started by Miss United States of America hopeful Sierra Sandison (Idaho) which took the world by storm during the Summer of 2014 and saw people 'outing' their pumps in a bid to break taboo, Italy are going one step further. They ask that every day you post a picture on Twitter of YOUR life with diabetes; what it means to you. Do you use a pump? Can you share a fact? Do you want people to know what a blood test looks like? Then do it, using #ShowMeYourDiabetes. Make the world see what diabetes really is.
Parliamentarians for Diabetes Global Network
Renza Scibilia, representing Diabetes Australia as well as her blog, Diabetogenic, talked about Parliamentarians for Diabetes Global Network - an advocacy programme established by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) in December 2013. Renza asked bloggers to highlight this Network of parliamentarians who established eight global aims which, amongst others, include eliminating stigma towards people with diabetes, encouraging governments to make active efforts to meet targets set by the World Health Assembly, to provide a platform for dialogue and to work towards urgent action. How can you do this? Through the power of your local Member of Parliament. By linking with them and highlighting the urgency, need and global importance of this network, we can show them why the PGDN is a commitment they can, and should, make. The Network is only open to parliamentarians so the power is within our hands to bring this powerful and potentially influential network onto the radar of parliamentarians.
Bringing community for people with to Germany
Ilka and Finn from Mein Diabetes Blog, and Tine from I Can Eat Everything were taking part on behalf of the fast-growing influential German diabetes community, and Ilka presented about the lack of events and come-together occasions for people with type 1 in Germany, and the isolation she felt on walking into an event for diabetes, and being the only person with type 1. Ilka demonstrated the power of the diabetes community when she approached sponsors to ask for funding for a diabetes event specifically for people with type 1, and a few months later arranged an event attended by over 180 people from across the country. So if you want to get involved in more events for people with type 1, keep an eye on these blogs. Ilka also spoke about the changes going on at MySugr headquarters and new developments of the already wildly popular app. They look like they could truly make waves in engaging even further with their communities, so keep your eyes peeled!
Adventure D, peer reviews and psychosocial support for people with diabetes
And finally representing the UK The Grumpy Pumper's Chis Aldred and The Understudy Pancreas' Annabel Astle told of their extensive work in the last year with Diabetes UK, JDRF and healthcare professionals in the NHS to help shape services and education. In particular, Annabel spoke passionately about the Peer review processes she had been involved with to look at the diverse experiences of paediatric care and services in the UK.
I presented about access - or lack thereof - to psychosocial support within diabetes clinics, and the way in which people experiencing any psychological challenges have no clear path with which to access services available within the NHS. This is a project with Ninjabetic's Laura Cleverly at the helm, and the project is so very in its fledgling form that I am not yet ready to share what the next steps are for us locally, but as was intended with these groups, we were already able to learn from the global communities around the table about how they had started these processes within their respective communities. So watch this space!
And finally, I told the group about the success of the Adventure D launch weekend (more on this, later).
As the summit drew to a close a list of actions were compiled and plans agreed as to how to move our respective projects on in the coming weeks and months.
It's not often the global diabetes 'online' community can come together to become a global 'offline' community, but when it does, it is a powerful thing. And as the mandatory group shot was taken and the event came to an end, a promising future of global focus on local challenges was emerged.