Visitors this week

Last year in Vienna at the EASD conference, I heard Doctor Stefano Genovese from Milan, Italy speak about one of his patients who was embarking on a very exciting adventure. Claudio Pelizzeni, who lives with type 1 diabetes, was planning to spend 1000 days traveling the globe. Sounds fun! The spin here is that Claudio will not by flying anywhere, instead relying on all other forms of transportation to get around.

Claudio has had type 1 diabetes for about 25 years. He has always travelled, but wanted to do something a little different. When he spoke with Doctor Genovese, he knew that he would not be faced with any ridiculous ‘you-can’t-do-that-you-have-type-diabetes’ sort of commentary. Instead, they discussed how it would work. Together, they developed a plan for managing type 1 diabetes throughout the big adventure!

Claudio set off from Milan last year and has so far travelled through Europe and Asia, arriving in Australia this week. How did he get here? On a cargo ship from Hong Kong, of course! He is spending a few weeks in Australia – a country that he tells me he absolutely loves! – before spending 29 days at sea on a cargo ship to Vancouver.

From there, he will make his way to Boston for the American Diabetes Associate conference.

I really hoped to meet Claudio when he arrived in Australia because there was so much I wanted to ask him. For example, how many months of supplies was he carrying with him? And when he was running low on insulin or BGL strips what did he do? I wanted to know how his diabetes was behaving and how he was managing with different foods.
I’ve kept in touch with Claudio since I first heard about him and was thrilled when he touched base last week to say he would be arriving soon in Australia. We organised a day that would work for us to meet in Melbourne. All our contact was via Twitter.

As it turned out, it was day 300 when Claudio came to visit. He spent some time in at DA-Vic before I took him to Carlton for lunch. (I know, I know, kinda crazy taking an Italian to an Italian restaurant for lunch, but he assured me that he was missing authentic Italian food, and I knew just the place to address that!)

ClaudioPOver lunch I asked him all my questions. When he left Milan he had about 10 months of insulin with him and uses a cool pack to keep it at temperature. He also had consumables for about the same length of time. He has been very fortunate to use the Abbott Libre (yet to be released in Australia, but you can read about it here) and I was very impressed (read: jealous) as he ‘scanned’ himself before he started on his bowl of pasta. (I also felt very old school as I jabbed a (blunt) lancet into my fingers to check my BGL.)

Renza and ClaudioClaudio said that his diabetes has been really well managed during his trip because he actually has time to ‘keep an eye on it’. I guess that’s part of the luxury of travelling. I know that when I am not swamped with the daily things that take up so much time I too have more time to dedicate to keeping on top of my diabetes tasks.

You can (and really should!) read about Claudio’s adventures at the Trip Therapy site. (It’s in Italian and English). Also, you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

This week we were also really fortunate to host a team of diabetes clinicians from Turkey who were in Australia on a Rotary-sponsored trip. They were interested to hear about our information and support programs for people living with and at risk of diabetes. They have headed back to Turkey after a whirlwind trip to plan a diabetes conference for healthcare professionals from Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania.

Hearing about how people from around the globe live with diabetes is always fascinating and definitely a favourite part of my job.

As I was speaking with Claudio yesterday and he told me about treating a low the day before with a piece of cake from a bakery in St Kilda. I smiled at his story – because it could have been mine. Any excuse to eat cake!

I am always amazed at how different things can be. But even more so, how similar.

RENZASRenza Scibilia is the Manager of Type 1 Diabetes and Community Programs at DA–Vic. She has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1998. The opinions and thoughts expressed in her occasional blogs are her own.

Renza blogs regularly at Diabetogenic about real life with type 1 diabetes and you can also follow her on Twitter @RenzaS

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Sustainability – what is the solution?

What happens at the end of an 8 week boot camp? You’ve been getting up at 6am every day for your morning session, eating well, avoiding temptation and haven’t had an alcoholic drink in weeks. You have been working hard and it’s paying off. But as boot camp draws to a close, can you sustain the results?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Last year, Michelle Bridges’ 12 week body transformation program saw hundreds of thousands of Australians pass through it – a staggering 40,000 every 12 weeks. Since the program began in 2011 she has helped Australians lose over 2 million kilos in total. Don’t get me wrong – this is no mean feat; she has helped thousands of people become health conscious – to eat well and to exercise regularly. My majorn concern is, what happens after the program has finished? Is the ‘boot camp’ mentality effective in the long-run?

With this in mind I conducted some research, I looked to see what offerings are available to help people maintain their fitness/healthy lifestyle at the conclusion of ‘short burst’ programs (both fitness and post-boot camp programs). The results were, as I expected, dire. There are plenty of short-term intense fitness programs, but very few designed to help people sustain long term healthy changes.

My research also looked at the increasing popularity of ‘Fitbits‘ – activity trackers such as wristbands that allow you to monitor exercise, eating, sleep and general health habits. Fitbit technology empowers users to be accountable for their exercise output – in the same way a boot camp instructor might be.

My friends and colleagues who own a Fitbit have become engrossed in their own statistics, have they walked enough steps for the day? Did they get enough sleep last night? When the answer is ‘no’, many feel and overwhelming sense of disappointment and seek to make up for it the next day – fantastic! Instilling this kind of thought process around exercise helps to maintain motivation and set realistic targets. Sustainable, for them – absolutely. For the ‘health unaware’, I’m not so sure.

As my research concluded, the most interesting ‘long term health solution’ I unearthed came directly from Diabetes Australia Ambassador, Guy Leech, and his ‘First Step’ program. The program is designed to change habits and behaviours, for good. Guy’s 8 week program is complimented by Dr Andrew Rochford’s (another Diabetes Australia Ambassador) new, yet to be released, e-health initiative. The combination shows amazing promise and in my opinion could be the first, real long-term solution for sustainable healthy lifestyle change.

I’d love to know what you think about sustainable fitness and how you keep fit & healthy, please share your feedback with me in the comments below.

Goldman and LeechMichael Goldman is Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Diabetes Australia – Vic. You can follow him on Twitter @MGoldman_ the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are his own. Michael is pictured here with Diabetes Australia Ambassador Guy Leech at the recent ‘Breakfast around the tan’ event, held as part of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival for which DA–Vic was the official charity partner.

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A delicious partnership

Diabetes Australia – Vic has been named as the first official charity partner of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF) – an exciting new adventure for us. Many people have asked why we have become involved with the MFWF and there are a multitude of good answers. Both organisations champion the using of fresh, locally sourced produce in our everyday diet and its benefits for our overall health.

However, the key reason is that I have become tired of diabetes being in the background. Every day I watch the number of people living with diabetes in Victoria increase. Last week we released new statistics that revealed 74 Victorians are being diagnosed every day. We needed a new and innovative way to connect with the public, create  topical conversation – this is it, this is our moment!

Our partnership with the Festival was recently lauded by the Health Minister, The Hon Jill Hennessy MP, as ‘creative’ for the way we have gained a strong platform, through a very high profile and popular event such as MFWF from which DA–Vic can share its message; to raise awareness about diabetes and, crucially, to enable us to raise funds through new pathways so we can make larger contributions to diabetes research.

The past week has been a busy array of events for the start of the festival. The official launch on the evening of Thursday 26 February, gathered key stakeholders of the festival and I was proud to wear the DA–Vic badge. We were joined by Gabriel Gaté (Diabetes Australia Ambassador & Taste Le Tour (de France) presenter) who spoke about the importance of teaching people how to cook to encourage healthy eating. Gabriel said “I have watched a lot of football, but that has not made me good footballer”, and reminded time in the kitchen cooking their own meals will make you a great cook, not TV shows.

FullSizeRenderThen, on Friday I was lucky to attend the World’s Longest Lunch in Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne. This unique event brought together 1500 individuals on a table 600m long – quite a site! Again, I was delighted to see DA–Vic’s presence at this event – every attendee received a simple money box which could be used to collect loose change and then donated at any Commonwealth Bank branch. These small gestures are truly having a great impact on placing diabetes at the forefront of people’s minds and I hope we start to see some money boxes get deposited!

An exciting couple of weeks, yes, but the best is yet to come. Our signature event, Breakfast Around the Tan, will close the festival on Sunday 15 March and we are working hard to make it a memorable one for all! Taking place around Melbourne’s iconic “Tan Track”, there will be IMG_0941pit stops at five stations filled with nutritious breakfast options, from fresh fruit and muesli to frittata and baked beans. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed for a sunny day – hopefully the Bureau of Meteorology isn’t lying to me as it has predicted 23 degrees and sunny at the moment! Plus, every ticket sold will help to contribute towards diabetes research; 5% of the ticket price is being donated directly to DA–Vic.

Don’t forget to book your tickets today, click here or use the link below!

The Festival has already given us a fantastic platform from which to raise the profile of our organisation and our cause. Already we created a media storm off the back of our launch as the festival partner, which is something we have struggled with in times gone by. The Festival is also opening doors to whole new world of supporters that we previously would not have been able to speak with. It is with the support of these people, our current supporters and you, that we will be able to reduce the impact of diabetes in Victoria.

Michael Goldman is Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Diabetes Australia – Vic. You can follow him on Twitter @MGoldman_ the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are his own.

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The realities of ageing

When you get to a certain age, you start to notice the little things more, particularly in relation to your health. Gone are the days of running 5km without any training, or being able to see a car registration plate from 100m, or even being able to stand up from your desk without feeling a slight ache in your back. Age is something that happens slowly, but when you stop to think about it you wonder how it crept up on you so quickly.

Last week, I took advantage of the SiSu Wellness Health Station that was fixed, in-store at our Elizabeth Street shop. The machine is an easy to use, self-service contraption designed to give you instant health results. I used SiSu to analyse my weight, height, BMI, heart rate & blood pressure – this generated an immediate health report with guidelines around where I should be for my age. It was pretty revealing. I’m a healthy guy; I pride myself on living a well-informed healthy life, yet I found myself in the grey area for some of my results. If I don’t take control of my lifestyle now, the results could snowball.

SiSu emailed the report to me, which prompted me to make an appointment with my GP. I am originally from Sydney and have spent a lot of time on the beach, which inevitably means, exposure to the sun. There is a history of melanoma in my family and I make it a priority each year to have my skin checked. This year was the year that I have been expecting for a while. I was told that I have melanoma skin cells on my back and will have to undergo urgent surgery to have these removed. Although manageable and nothing too serious, the point is – without committing to my health and making regular check-ups a priority, it has the potential to be.

All of this got me thinking. I feel great and I look physically well, but that doesn’t mean I am. Some health issues sit beneath the surface. It is important to prioritise your health, particularly as you get older. You have done all the hard work and made it to this point in life, so make sure you do everything you can to keep going!

I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to do two things. Keep your eyes peeled for SiSu Wellness Health Stations across Victoria and take part in a free health check (if you didn’t get the chance to visit the one at the DA-Vic store on Elizabeth St). And secondly, be sun smart and don’t ignore any signs of skin cancer – getting checked is painless and could be a blessing in disguise.

Further information:
Diabetes Australia – Victoria are a program partner of the 2015 Sons of the West campaign – a Western Bulldogs community health initiative supporting men living and working in Melbourne’s West to lead healthier lives.

From our involvement in the campaign we were given the opportunity to house a health check station within the retail shop. The SiSu Wellness Health Station is a unique, Australian-developed tool for engaging the public in managing their health. The easy to use, self service station is able to calculate key metrics such as blood pressure, body mass index & body weight, % body fat, heart rate, and height and weight.

For more information on skin cancer and how to be checked, visit

Michael Goldman is Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Diabetes Australia – Vic. You can follow him on Twitter @MGoldman_ the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are his own.

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That Sugar Film

This morning, I started my day at the movies.

That Sugar Film is a new film that recounts Australian Damon Gameau’s experiment of eating a high sugar diet for sixty days. The catch is that these foods are not things like soft drink, lollies or chocolate – foods we know to be full of sugar and not particularly healthy options. They are foods that are commonly perceived as ‘healthy’, such as low fat yoghurt, muesli bars, juices and cereals.

When I heard about this film, I gave a little yawn and rolled my eyes. Hadn’t Morgan Spurlock done this more than ten years ago with Super Size Me when he ate nothing but McDonald’s for thirty days? Surely this is old news!

The difference is that Morgan Spurlock’s experiment was a little improbable. There are very few people who would actually eat MacDonald’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every single day. However, Damon Gameau would actually eat the average quantity of sugar most people consumed on a daily basis.

That average is 40 teaspoons.

That sugar film pic

The other thing that was of interest is that Damon did not increase his overall calorie consumption – that remained the same. He was just getting his calories from different foods; specifically, low fat foods.

Over the sixty day period, Damon gained about eight kilograms, and his waist circumference increased ten centimetres.  Blood tests conducted at the beginning, end and throughout the experiment showed significant decrease in health markers. The diet he was consuming affected his mood and ability to concentrate.

Damon is not demonising sugar, nor blaming sugar for the epidemic of metabolic health conditions faced by an increasing number of people. But he is questioning whether the ‘low-fat message’ we have been told is healthy since the 1950s, is actually the right message.

That Sugar Film is beautifully made. It is entertaining and interesting to watch. And it’s thought provoking. There are a few sensationalist moments I could have done without – I really didn’t need to see a young man from Kentucky having all his teeth extracted after they had been destroyed and decayed from years of drinking Mountain Dew – but shock is currency and can drive home a point.

I struggle watching films and documentaries like this. I am constantly amazed and shocked at just how little people know about nutrition. I know that saying this has the potential of making me sound arrogant, but when Damon started listing the foods that people consider to be healthy, I shook my head in disbelief. Who in their right mind would think that drinking a liquid breakfast of Nutri-Grain in a box is a healthy way to start the day?

But he is right. People do think that a muesli bar or bottle of fruit juice is healthy. They see granola bars and smoothies as being a healthy choice – frequently because these foods are labelled as low fat with no consideration of their sugar content.

However, I am not the target audience. And neither were the healthcare professionals or public health experts in the room.
The challenge is getting the message out to the wider audience and to cut through the marketing palaver and the mixed health messages we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

It can be so confusing to understand what makes a certain type of food a ‘healthy choice’, or to understand just what is in a jar of pasta sauce. It is unbelievably difficult to cut through the health messages that are presented from reputable sources, let alone the propaganda we are fed by celebrities pushing their latest ‘health’ craze.

We need to make things as easy as possible for people to make healthy choices. Why are we still making things so difficult?

One more thing:

Predominantly, my work is about type 1 diabetes. I live with type 1 diabetes and I write a blog about type 1 diabetes.

This film is not about type 1 diabetes. It’s actually not about type 2 diabetes either. It’s about the health of all people.

There are times that the word ‘diabetes’ is used without a clarifier, and while I know that greatly annoys people, in the grand scheme of things, it is not relevant in this film.

My next point is in the same vein. Development of type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with the food we eat, the quantity of sugar we consume or whether we were born under a full moon. Again, that is not what this film is about.

Please, put all of those things aside. This is about public health and the health of all people. We need to take our diabetes blinkers off for just one minute and look at the bigger picture.


That Sugar Film will be in theatres around Australia from March 1. Diabetes Australia is a strategic partner supporting and promoting the film.

RENZASRenza Scibilia is the Manager of Type 1 Diabetes and Community Programs at DA–Vic. She has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1998. The opinions and thoughts expressed in her occasional blogs are her own.

Renza blogs regularly at Diabetogenic about real life with type 1 diabetes and you can also follow her on Twitter @RenzaS

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Kids and junk food don’t play nicely together

If you could see the smiles that light up the faces of children as they enter Skinners Adventure Playground in South Melbourne you would not believe they have been told to check their chips and chocolate at the gate. That’s because junk food is the furthest thing from these young minds as they hurry in, excited to greet their friends and the resident chooks.adventure playground blog picLocals were bemused by media attention over a so-called ‘new’ junk food ‘ban’ in the playground. This hardly seemed newsworthy, as parents and children have been enjoying this beloved playground, junk food free for a little over six years without any fuss.

There were the predictable cries of ‘Nanny State’ … Some people felt that this was a move by the City of Port Phillip Council to take away parents’ rights to make decisions about what their kids eat.

A prominent Child Psychologist argued that banning junk food in a playground will deter kids from wanting to play. He had obviously never visited this play space, which boasts a mixture of slides, ropes, bikes, natural features, a rabbit, veggie patch and a basketball court. Getting children to leave the playground is a more valid concern for parents. Kids can’t get enough!

In reality, the junk food free environment is a draw card for local families whose children are treated to free healthy lunches and snacks that compliment nutrition education programs run by Council.

For an hour or two, while their children play at Skinners, parents can rest assured they will not be pestered for junk food, a rare luxury given there a very few places you can take children without being surrounded by junk food and junk food marketing.

Associating healthy food with playtime is a creative way for kids to develop a positive relationship with nutritious food. On the other hand, regularly associating junk food and playtime is counterproductive; it sends the message to kids that if they are active, they can eat whatever they like.

The City of Port Phillip should be applauded for putting in place initiatives that promote healthy eating, safeguard children’s health, and support parents in making healthy choices. It would be great to see a similar junk food policy applied in other playgrounds and other councils across Australia.

Dimity Gannon isThe Parents Jury logo The Parents’ Jury Campaign Manager. You can follow The Parents Jury on Twitter @theparentsjury, Facebook The Parents Jury or visit the website

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International Migrants Day

I am a proud migrant.

In late 1978 I arrived in Melbourne after spending some time in a refugee camp in Malaysia. I was one of the boat people who fled Vietnam. I was lucky to be accepted by the Australian government to settle here in Melbourne.

In the refugee camp I was inspired by some nurses who were volunteering their time to help us and I decided that I wanted to become a nurse so I could help people.  I worked very hard to fulfil my dream and finally in 1983 I graduated as a registered nurse from Royal Children’s hospital.

I am grateful to Australia for giving me a second chance in life. My way of giving back is by doing my job as a nurse.

I decided to specialise in diabetes education due to my personal background: I have a family history of diabetes. I reflected on what my grandmother and mother went through with their diabetes. Their lack of understanding and management prompted me to take a diabetes education course and I became a qualified diabetes nurse educator. Sadly, I could not help my mother as she passed away the year I finished my course.

Diabetes education became my passion. I know the work I do makes a difference. I am a proud migrant and I feel proud to be part of Diabetes Australia – Vic.

Yung (far right) pictured with her colleagues yung runningcompeting in the ‘Run Melbourne’ fun run, representing DA–Vic.

Yung Nguyen is a Diabetes Nurse Educator at Diabetes Australia – Vic. She is sharing her story to celebrate International Migrant Day.

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