With social media playing an increasingly important role in healthcare, online analytics show that Twitter conversations around diabetes have continuously grown over recent years. People with diabetes have built one of the most active and robust online communities of any patient group – so much, in fact, that they’re widely known online as the #DOC (Diabetes Online Community). AstraZeneca recently hosted 11 of these influencers in Gaithersburg, Maryland for our first ever Diabetes Linkup event.
The #DiabetesLinkup provided a forum for open dialogue around unmet needs in diabetes and how together, through strength in numbers, we can bridge those gaps for the more than 29.1 million Americans living with diabetes. All agreed that the DOC plays a critical role for people living with diabetes. “The DOC can cure a lot of loneliness and gives people a little extra something to help them turn the corner with their diabetes. We have, and will continue to have, the opportunity to help people learn more about their diabetes,” said Diabetes Linkup participant, Anna Norton, of DiabetesSisters.
The event was kicked off with a presentation from Sally Okun, Vice President of Advocacy, Policy & Patient Safety at PatientsLikeMe, with whom AstraZeneca has a five-year research collaboration to use patient-reported data to shape future medicine development and help improve patient outcomes. Sally discussed the work the organization is doing to improve the lives of patients through new knowledge derived from shared real-world experiences and outcomes aggregated in the online community, specifically around diabetes.
Participants had an opportunity to hear from John Yee, M.D., Vice President and Head of Medical Affairs, U.S. Diabetes on AstraZeneca’s work in diabetes, as well as the chance to tour MedImmune research labs, including the cardiovascular and metabolic lab, to learn more about the scientific research underway at AstraZeneca. Science is at the core of all we do at AstraZeneca and informs the advancement of the approach to diabetes. “You need to leverage the science – it can play a major role in shifting the mindset, particularly that type 2 diabetes is not just about being overweight,” said Kate Cornell who blogs at Kate’s Sweet Success and The Type 2 Experience. “If the message can be shifted away from ‘lose some weight,’ more people are going to listen.”
An interactive lunch featured a selection of recipes from AstraZeneca’s Fit2Me tool, a free type 2 diabetes lifestyle support program focused on four key areas of diabetes care—food, activity, treatment information, and support. The group also sampled two flavorful vegetable dishes made onsite by Sam Talbot, a Top Chef season 2 semi-finalist who has type 1 diabetes and is a founder of Beyond Type 1, a non-profit organization which seeks to bring a new level of respect, understanding and support for those living with type 1 diabetes. Sam shared his philosophy of diabetes management – no foods are completely forbidden, but he focuses on moderation and uses fresh, sustainable ingredients whenever possible.
While the event offered a range of activities and guest speakers, the most meaningful component was the opportunity for live discussion on important topics ranging from how the DOC can provide peer support to the current challenges facing those living with diabetes. AstraZeneca thanks everyone for their participation in the inaugural Diabetes Linkup and looks forward to future opportunities to engage with this impactful group of individuals.