Following hot on the heels of ATTD was the Diabetes UK Professional conference in early March.
This year’s conference was held in Liverpool and took the same format as last year with a 3-day professional conference, followed by the “Insider” event on the Saturday for those who live with, care for or are affected by diabetes. This is the second year that the Insider event has been run and it was again hugely popular. It is great to see this type of event happening more often in the UK as it is not only educational but it also provides opportunities for people with diabetes to meet others with the same condition and to feel “in the majority” which is an all too rare thing for us.
As with last year there were sessions focussed on both Type1 and Type2 diabetes so that all interests were catered for. Even though the talks were varied in subject, ranging from extending beta cell function, to exercise and diabetes, through to DIY APS, there was one key message in the sessions I attended to all of us PWDs.
Don’t beat yourself up about your blood glucose results. This is really hard, and you are doing great.
Personally, I totally support this message to PWDs and hope that all healthcare professionals echo it in their clinics.
The main conference featured the expected scientific sessions with a good focus on the progress made following on from the DIRECT trial findings that were published at last year’s conference. With sessions entitled “DIRECT: Making it a reality” it was good to see the commitment to ensure that research outcomes are being used to improve the lives of PWDs in practical ways. One of the comments on twitter from a DIRECT session stuck in my mind.
“In delivering DIRECT, healthcare professionals were worried about their patients losing weight quickly and taking Type2 diabetes medications off their prescription. But for people with Type2, weight loss, “remission” and coming off medications were the main motivators.”
Diabetes management is not just about clinical outcomes, it’s about us as people and what we need to live well and thrive.
So, in the raft of scientific sessions, several things stood out for me.
Firstly, the increasing number of PWDs speaking in sessions year on year. This year felt like a real step change. Young people giving their experience of transitioning from paediatric to adult care, telling the audience about how it felt and how it affected their motivation to manage their diabetes. The session on DIY APS included a PWD and a parent of a young person with diabetes sharing their perspective on how these systems work and how they have benefited the people wearing them. Then there was yours truly, running on about his diabetes-related foot complication and explaining that you need to treat the person not just the body part. These lived experiences are invaluable and it’s great to see them being included in this conference. Long may it continue.
Two other vital subjects that were included this year and felt much more visible were mental health and eating disorders in Type1 and Type2 diabetes. These are a reality for so many of those living with this condition and whilst these may be difficult conversations they must not be avoided. I wish that I had been able to get to these sessions but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend. It one of the challenges of large conferences like this. It is also a challenge that whilst I wrote in my last post from ATTD about advocating for all, it is of course human nature to attend sessions that are aligned with your own type of diabetes and lived experience. Something I need to make a conscious effort to change in the future. So, having said that the key takeaways from the sessions above that I saw on social media were:
- ‘There is no Health Without Mental Health". I think this is so true. Diabetes management takes a lot of mental effort, as well as the physical things, and there in no single day off for us from the second that we are diagnosed.
- Eating disorders affect people with type 2 diabetes as well as those with type 1 diabetes.
- Men with diabetes are affected by eating disorders too, but are less likely to talk about them or seek help
It is encouraging to see this conference evolve as time goes on and increasingly involve those of us affected by diabetes. Yes, it is a conference for healthcare professionals. For them to learn. But education is a two-way street, so who better to learn from than the people that live with this condition every single day of our lives?