Raising our Voices: Advocating for Others with Diabetes

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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!

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