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Raising our Voices: Advocating for Others with Diabetes

By Dr. Francine Kaufman

Chief Medical Officer

Posted:  9/15/2011 12:00 AM


Editors Note: As some of you may know, throughout her more than 30-year career Dr. Kaufman has worked around the globe to help people with diabetes. That’s why, with the UN Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases just around the corner, we asked her to share some of her thoughts on giving back and advocating for the global diabetes community. To learn more about global efforts to take action against non-communicable diseases, check out the Medtronic Global NCD Initiative or head out to the UNITE for a Healthy Future event in Central Park this Sunday. – Amanda

Human resources are a society’s greatest asset and the foundation for their advancement – from building families to building economies. Everyone should have the right to contribute to society at their maximum capability, whether they have a chronic disease such as diabetes or not.

From the beginning of time, communicable diseases (like diarrhea, pneumonia, measles, polio, meningitis) have been the major source of morbidity and mortality around the globe. The good news is that we’ve now reached this great point in human history where we have made significant inroads in preventing and treating communicable diseases.

With the myriad of medical advances that have been developed, the focus has shifted from infectious and traumatic illnesses to chronic ones. No one – no matter where he or she is on this planet – should have to die from a treatable common, chronic disease simply because they do not have access to the basic medications required. That is because if you have access to the medications and tools you need to effectively manage your disease, you will be able to contribute to society at your maximum capability. And diabetes is the quintessential example.  No one should die because they do not have access to insulin.

So, what can you do to help?

The best way to start is to find an organization and donate – your money, your time, and your skills and your intellect. There are so many organizations doing valuable work. ADA, JDRF, Insulin for Life and Life for a Child are just a few examples.

Supporting organizations that work both at home and abroad is important. All of us can help, play a role and make a difference. Most importantly, we can become advocates for people with diabetes. There will soon be 300 million people with diabetes and even more friends and family members.  As advocates, we can raise our voices to say we demand that no one, particularly no child, should die of diabetes because they lack access to basic medication and supplies, and we demand that non-communicable diseases be a priority in all health systems around the world. Because it ends up hurting all societies - and all aspects of societies - if people can’t fully contribute because they have diabetes.

That’s what efforts like the UN Summit on NCDs are all about.

I truly feel helping others and getting involved with something greater than oneself is extremely rewarding. As humans, we have a desire to become involved in a cause greater than ourselves. Even with all the things that occupy our busy days, setting aside time to volunteer makes us feel more connected and valued. 

I started by working with my local ADA chapter and then eventually got involved in diabetes camps.  I have volunteered with organizations like AYUDA (American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad) and the IDF Youth Empowerment Program to bring my understanding of diabetes to others around the globe. Recently I also visited Haiti to help teach how to approach and care for people with diabetes.

Overall, I believe it’s incredibly rewarding to take part as a volunteer and advocate for the diabetes community. Knowing that I did something or created something that may not have happened or existed if I wasn’t there is really gratifying. And it’s true that without volunteers to raise our voices and contribute our time and/or money, many great events and ideas might not have come to be.

What will you do now to stand up for those around the globe with diabetes? What are you planning to do next? Please share with us in the comments!


Lane Desborough

Posted on Thu Sep 15 16:40:29 GMT 2011

What a great video and post, thanks for sharing! Like you, I've had the privilege of visiting and working in dozens of countries around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Fiji, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and Ukraine. I've even brought my family to many of these countries so they can see how fortunate we are to live in a G7 nation. We must not take for granted the access to healthcare, energy, and education which we enjoy.

There is limitless opportunity and need to address NCD's in the developing world. Furthermore, nature abhors a vaccuum; these countries will develop innovative solutions to their pressing problems, such as the Jairpur artificial foot developed in India or the NeoNurture car-parts incubator. Medtronic will be there to help.

Evelyn Matafonov

Posted on Sun Nov 18 20:14:20 GMT 2012

Hello, I just came across your notes, which made me feel very pleased to read how much you have done for Diabetes.
Both my children are on Medtronic pumps, and I must say it has made their lives allot easier.
My son was 9 yrs old when diagnosed, and my daughter was 12.
We have been living in Dubai for the last 5 years, where at times it was difficult to find, the help and understanding one needs for Diabetes.
So after meeting a mum at my children's school who has a son with type 1 diabetes, we both decided to form a group called "I am number one", we have informal coffee mornings, but of late have been fortunate enough to be recognized by a group here called Landmark who have offered their help with our gatherings, with use of their cafe, ( where we now hold our meetings)
This month has been very productive as we have been interviewed by local papers and been on the radio, so we are so pleased that we are making a difference, especially trying to explain to people that type 1 and type 2 are not the same condition.
We just recently joined Facebook, where we have added all our wonderful stories and also added inspiring links for people to see.
We feel very touched that people have recognized what we are doing.
Thank-you for your story.
I am number one.

Evelyn :)

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