Diabetes Australia Young Leaders Program Launch

Gregg Popovich, coach of my favourite basketball team, the San Antonio Spurs, has famously stated:

“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

Popovich calls this “Pounding the Rock”. For me, diabetes is that rock. It’s a complicated condition, a massive political issue, and enormously complex. With the exception of a magical cure appearing, diabetes signifies something that we need to keep chipping away at to make a difference. Chipping away at issues that will impact, bit-by-bit, issue-by-issue, on the overall issue of diabetes in this country.

As a young(ish) person with diabetes, my approach is that we need to continually pound the rock until it starts to crack. Once it starts to crack, the rock starts to split. And progress is made.

On Monday I was lucky enough to pop along to the launch of the Diabetes Australia Young Leaders Program, held in Melbourne. Renza has blogged about this on the Diabetes Australia – Victoria page.  This program is pretty damn cool, and I’m happy to say I’m involved in it. It will provide young people (aged 15-29 – I still fit within this category….just) with the opportunity to provide input and advocate on particular issues that affect them and their life with diabetes, together with the support of Diabetes Australia.

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I was invited to speak at the event, but unfortunately had to decline because I wasn’t sure if I was able to get there with my slightly hectic schedule at the moment. In the end, I was able to pop along very briefly and the speakers were exceptional. As I tweeted during the event, the program is in a very safe collective pair of hands based on the people that spoke so passionately and directly about their diabetes in front of some pretty important people, including, but not limited to:

  • Greg Johnson, CEO of Diabetes Australia,
  • Craig Bennett, CEO of Diabetes Australia – Victoria
  • Richard Di Natale, Federal Greens Senator
  • Georgie Crozier, Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Health
  • Guy Barnett, Former Federal Liberal Senator

For too long, young people have been unfortunately absent from the policy debate around diabetes. Not necessarily by fault or design, but just one of those things that has happened. Kudos must go to the people at Diabetes Australia that have conceptualised and implemented this initiative.

The Diabetes Australia Young Leaders Program can be a strong catalyst for change in this country around how all forms of diabetes are represented, and what tangible changes are required to improve the quality of life of all Australians living with diabetes. Part of that includes a national diabetes strategy, but just as important, is the fact that people with diabetes have a collective, supported voice.

Let’s use it.

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@RenzaS took this shot. Normally I have my eyes closed in every single photo taken, so this photo is a rarity! 

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Election watch – Where’s your diabetes strategy?

Yesterday the Coalition made a commitment to the development of a National Diabetes Strategy, which is clearly a political win for those interested in the presence of diabetes in the election campaign. Renza has summarised this on the Diabetes Australia – Victoria blog succinctly.

I have written the following piece to the Labor candidates in my former electorate and current electorate. I’ll disclose here that I am generally a supporter of the Labor party, but I am not a card-carrying member.

Hopefully it has some impact! 

You can read my letter below:

“Dear [removed] and [removed],

As a traditionally Labor supporter that has lived in the Electorate of [removed] for 26 years (with family still there) and now living in the Electorate of [removed], I’m writing to highlight the importance of a National Diabetes Strategy to the future of all people in Australia living with diabetes, and those that will be affected in the future. I have lived with type 1 diabetes for 16 years and recent government statistics show that the incidence of type 1 diabetes continues to increase.

The Coalition yesterday announced a commitment to support the development of a National Diabetes Strategy. This announcement has been welcomed by influential diabetes organisations, Diabetes Australia, Diabetes Australia – Victoria and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I fully appreciate that these matters are within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Health and Medical Research, however I equally value the importance and influence of local candidates to shaping the policy position of the Australian Labor Party movement. There are currently only two mentions of diabetes in Australian Labor’s National Platform, and neither of these items reflect a commitment to strategic leadership on these matters.

As you may be aware, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body mistakenly attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. It is certain that going on a diet or cutting down on sugar does not stop type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease, and people with the condition need up to 6 insulin injections every day or a continuous infusion of insulin from a small pump, plus multiple finger prick blood sugar tests, just to stay alive.

Diabetes will become the number 1 burden of disease in Australia in the next five years and the personal financial cost of diabetes is high. The health costs to the Australian community can be immense as well, and Australia does not have a National Diabetes Strategy.

Consequently, it is clear to me that the current system needs improvement, coordination and leadership to ensure people with type 1 diabetes can achieve the highest quality of life possible.

Diabetes Australia has prepared A National Diabetes Strategy and Action Plan document to “provide the incoming government, after the 2013 national election, with a clear framework for a new national strategy for diabetes and five year action plan”.  Of particular importance to me, are the following items:

      • People with diabetes in certain high risk groups should have government supported access to Continuous Glucose Monitoring technology (e.g. hypoglycaemia unawareness)
      • Regulatory and approval processes should take account of measures and benefits beyond HbA1c and include wellbeing measures
      • Engage and empower all people with all types of diabetes to be at the centre of the diabetes response and play a central role in developing diabetes and related policies and strategies and determining ways in which services are delivered

We need a new national diabetes strategy, and I look forward to the diabetes policy announcements from the Australian Labor Party in the coming weeks.

Achieving world class outcomes for people living with type 1 diabetes (and type 2 for that matter) should be a bi-partisan commitment.

I appreciate your consideration of these matters, and wish you both good luck for 7 September.

Yours sincerely,

Matt Cameron.”

To absent blogging…and a new twitter account for diabetes

Hi all,

So I’ve been pretty absent from this blog. Life is hectic, and I’ve barely posted for a long time. Work is busy. I’ve gone back to study. I have a number of other commitments. Basically, there are not enough hours in the week for me to do everything I would like to, and I generally tend to overcommit myself! I’ve been sick three or four times this year, which is unusual, because despite my diabetic immune system, I’m normally pretty durable.

With all of this happening, I reckon my diabetes management has taken a bit of hit. I haven’t done a pump data upload in forever. I’ve over-treated hypos far too often. I forgot to order test strips. I haven’t been exercising. The list continues.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that I have been really absent from the diabetes online community on twitter, including the #OzDOC chats and reading blogs. I know some people only use twitter for diabetes purposes but I use it for diabetes, discussions about a number of sports, following politics, following music, keeping track of the news, staying in touch with friends and staying on top of new technology. In short, my twitter account was pretty nuts and I feel like I wasn’t in the right headspace to focus some attention on the diabetes conversations taking place.

So, I’ve started @MattyCameronT1D as an account that will allow me to focus some energy on the diabetes online community. It’s no secret that I find the twitter conversations about diabetes really empowering, supportive and fun, and I haven’t been allowing myself the space to participate as I’d like.

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I will keep posting on @MattyCameron as well, but will principally keep that to all things sport, coffee, politics, health promotion, sports management and general miscellaneous activity!