Have your say in the National Australian Diabetes Strategy

Today, a new consultation paper for the development of the National Diabetes Strategy was launched by Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley.

The paper was developed by the National Diabetes Strategy Advisory Group and has been a year-long process involving many stakeholders. I attended a consultation day last year, where I was asked to provide consumer input into living with diabetes.

The release of this paper means that the broader diabetes community can now have their input.

It’s really easy to feel that these sorts of documents are a little highbrow and not designed for people actually living with diabetes. There are a lot of facts and stats that have no real bearing on actual day-to-day living with diabetes. But they do serve to highlight the magnitude of the issue and the urgency in which a National Strategy is required.

Five goals have been identified:

1. Reduce the prevalence and incidence of people developing type 2 diabetes

2. Promote earlier diabetes detection

3. Reduce the occurrence of diabetes-related complications and improve quality of life among people with diabetes

4. Reduce the impact of diabetes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other high risk groups

5. Strengthen prevention and care through research, evidence and data.

A significant portion of the document is dedicated to the prevention of type 2 diabetes – as there should be considering the size of this issue – but there is also excellent discussion about those living with diabetes and how to improve our lives. The focus on diabetes-related complications is welcome. Most pleasingly, attention is being given to improved early detection of diabetes. For type 1 diabetes, the aim is to prevent diabetic ketoacidosis, which can be life-threatening.

The launch of this document coincides with the opening of the online consultation process which means that anyone and everyone can provide feedback. That doesn’t only mean health organisations, healthcare professionals or professional bodies. It equally – and perhaps even more importantly – means those affected in a very personal way by diabetes. You. And me.

I was quite critical when the Advisory Group was formed and no consumers were included so we really need to take advantage of the consultation period to make sure that we are heard.

Living with a chronic health condition that doesn’t take a break – especially diabetes with its significant self-management requirements – while trying to navigate a health system that, at times, is downright user UN-friendly can be tough. Really tough. How can things be improved? What is working? What isn’t? Share your ideas and story to help develop a strategy that will make things easier.

The release of the paper also coincides with my ‘diaversary’. It was on 15 April 1998 that I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and for the last seventeen years, I have been trying to manage my diabetes as well as I possibly can. Any opportunity to improve the system and help the lives of those of us living with diabetes is important. Any attention given to reducing the impact of diabetes on the community, but most importantly those of us living with diabetes is something we should welcome and celebrate.

The Consultation Paper for the Development of the Australian National Diabetes Strategy and the online consultation survey can be accessed from this page.

imageRenza 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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The Big Soda Con

Last week, Big Soda announced its latest spin-off product would be arriving in Australia. A “healthier” soft drink with “35% less sugar” has landed on our shelves. The announcement was not unexpected, but it was disappointing on a number of levels.  Despite what the marketing campaign and bright green packaging suggests, this new soft drink still contains vast amounts of sugar. It is inherently unhealthy. I am disappointed to see an unhealthy product being masqueraded as a healthy option. I am also disappointed with the reaction from public health organisations – expressing outrage that I suspect has only fueled the media buzz.  The biggest disappointment of all, however, is that Big Soda corporations are still selling these unhealthy soft drinks whilst professing to care about public health.

I’m deliberately not naming names here, because I don’t want to give airtime to a corporation that says it is “serious about tackling the obesity crisis” but whose actions say the opposite. I imagine that most of you know which product I’m talking about (or can find out with a quick Google search). I also want to make it clear that I’m not judging or criticising anyone for buying the occasional soft drink – I have and I probably will again. What I am saying, is that everyone should know what they are drinking, what’s in it, and how it impacts their health.

For public health campaigners, this is eerily similar to the spin-offs launched by Big Tobacco in 1980’s – “mild” and “light” cigarettes that were supposedly a healthier choice. Tobacco is still tobacco and soda is still soda. No amount of “green-washing” or marketing tactics can change the fact that this soft drink is unhealthy. Even with “35% less sugar”, this is a highly sugary, sweetened beverage and it is likely to boost sales of the original, even more sugary, beverage.

I continue to be disappointed when fellow public health groups jump on the chance to comment, be outraged, and give extra airtime and newspaper lines to these Big Soda corporations. I don’t agree with the media-hungry approach that they take and I don’t think that feeding into the media buzz is helpful; it just adds steam to the marketing campaign. Instead of being outraged we should focus on campaigning for change. More disappointing however is that Big Soda is positioning this as a socially responsible move. They continue to say that they are only responding to what consumers want. They continue to trumpet that they are making “ongoing commitments to help address obesity”.

If these corporations were serious about their commitment to tackle the obesity crisis, they would phase out their highly sugary, sweetened product lines.

If these corporations were serious about meeting consumer demand for healthier options, they would label nutritional information more clearly.

If these corporations were serious about building a healthier community, they would stop marketing sugary, sweetened beverages to children with sports rewards and video games.

They don’t. So when the “green-washed” ads arrive in your newspapers, on your TV screens and in your homes, take a step back and maybe look at these instead:

•    Rethink Sugary Drink
•    Health Star Rating
•    The H30 challenge
•    That Sugar Film

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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It’s time for Diabetes MILES-2!

I have had type 1 diabetes for almost seventeen years now. When I was first diagnosed, all diabetes talk from my healthcare professionals centred on numbers: BGL numbers, HbA1c numbers, percentage risk reduction if my A1c was below a certain number, blood pressure targets, the number of times each day I should be checking my BGL.

Lots and lots and lots of numbers! As someone whose only interest in numbers is seeing the words ’75 per cent off’ next to the word ‘boots’, this sudden focus on counting things wasn’t really all that appealing.

There was no mention about how I felt about this sudden change in my health status, or what living with a chronic health condition really meant to me.

It wasn’t until I’d had diabetes for a few years that my very-cluey endocrinologist suggested that it may be a good idea for me to speak to someone about the everyday, real-life, emotional side of living with a chronic health condition. It was a good idea. So I did it.

In recent years, I have (pleasingly) seen a shift with more attention being paid to the psychological aspects of diabetes. This has been evident at diabetes conferences for healthcare professionals, consumer-focused events and in the materials developed by diabetes organisations.

And, of course the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD) – a collaboration between Diabetes Victoria and Deakin University – has been established with a very clear focus of improving the quality of life of all people with diabetes.

The ACRBD has undertaken a lot of work since it started almost five years ago, and one of the most significant pieces of work was the Diabetes MILES study in 2011. Over 3,300 Australians with diabetes took part and results have been presented at local and international conferences.

You can read all about it here and here.

So with the foundations laid, it is really pleasing to see that the ACBRD team is conducting a follow up survey: Diabetes MILES-2.  Once again, the survey will focus on the psychological and social aspects of living with diabetes.

There are two main aims of the Diabetes MILES-2. The first is to follow up with those who completed the survey in 2011 and see how they are going with their diabetes. And the second is to survey new people which will help provide a more detailed picture about living with diabetes in Australia.

This is really important research. I have already completed the survey and hope that you will consider doing it too.

For those lucky enough to have a four day weekend (yay!), why not grab yourself a cuppa and do the survey? And if you know others with diabetes, ask them to do it too. The more people who participate, the better the research.

We need to keep getting the message out about the real concerns people living with diabetes experience. We need to talk about burnout and diabetes distress and our wellbeing.

For almost seventeen years now, diabetes has been a big part of my life. I intend to be around for a lot longer. Whilst the mechanical things I do every day to manage my diabetes – the drudgery of BGL checking and pump line changes and carb counting – are part of my day-to-day routine, making sure that my wellbeing is considered is equally as important. Because living well with diabetes – having a good quality of life – is imperative.

Click here to do the Diabetes MILES-2 study. (As an added incentive (not that you need one!), you could win 1 of 3 iPad by completing the survey. Go!!)

RenzRENZASa 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

Posted in chronic disease, Diabetes, Mental health, Research, stigma, Support, type 1, type 2 | Leave a comment

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

Posted in chronic disease, Diabetes, Health, Insulin Pumps, type 1 | Leave a comment

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 http://www.sunsmart.com.au/

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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