While online conversations about diabetes are on the rise and people with diabetes have cultivated the Diabetes Online Community (#DOC) as a way to connect with one another, those living with type 2 diabetes seem to play a less active part in the dialogue. To help strengthen and elevate the voices of type 2 diabetes advocates, AstraZeneca recently hosted members of the type 2 community for DiabetesLinkup: In It 2gether.
The #DiabetesLinkup provided an opportunity for type 2 diabetes online influencers and patient advocacy groups to map out the existing challenges to engaging people living with type 2 diabetes online and work together to identify solutions. “Those of us living with type 2 diabetes want to connect with one another to share experiences and connect to resources, but the diabetes burnout is real and many of us have lower levels of engagement due to emotional and social barriers,” shared Dr. Phyllisa Smith Deroze, of Diagnosed not Defeated.
Mark Freeman, co-creator of the mental health online community Everybody Has a Brain, sparked the discussion with insights that have helped him to become an established patient advocate and blogger. In particular, Mark acknowledged the hurdles that stigma can present to discussing aspects of our health openly, and encouraged tackling the issue head on. “Stigma is a squirrel wearing a scary mask. Behind that mask is a squeaky little voice and we can’t let it stop us from connecting with one another.” He went on, “No one has ever gotten rid of stigma by staying quiet and waiting for it to go away.” Mark pointed to the strength that online communities can provide for those managing illness, and reinforced that building greater support online for those living with type 2 diabetes is not only critically important but also achievable.
Participants toured the MedImmune research labs and learned how AstraZeneca is supporting the type 2 diabetes community from Cheryl Fassak, Head of Marketing for the Diabetes Portfolio, and Jason Moran, Diabetes Portfolio Scientific Director. Both Cheryl and Jason spoke to AstraZeneca’s integrated approach to addressing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases holistically and shared examples of how this strategy comes to life to benefit patients. An example is the recent expansion of Fit2Me, a free, online diet and lifestyle support program that leverages technology to help adults with type 2 diabetes, and now also cardiovascular disease, live healthier lives by creating custom plans tailored to each person’s likes, dislikes and disease needs. "I have a family history of diabetes, but was unaware of the connection between the disease and cardiovascular risk factors. When my sister, who was a type 1 diabetic had a massive heart attack, I was totally caught by surprise. I wish the doctor had mentioned that to me earlier-I felt blindsided. Raising the conversation about risk factors as early on as possible is definitely a needed focus," shared Michele Tuck-Ponder, type 2 diabetes advocate and author of Diabetes While Black.
Discussion took place throughout the day both in the room and online to address topics that people with diabetes need to hear about, and to identify resources that could be shared online to empower those living with type 2 diabetes to take control of their own care. Representatives from the diaTribe Foundation, the Diabetes Hands Foundation, and DiabetesSisters directed online influencers to programs and resources they can share with their readership, including the policy powerhouse Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition and DiabetesSistersVoices, a newly launched website where questions submitted by women about diabetes can help direct research. They also talked about important gaps related to eating disorders, obesity, online misinformation and guidance on finding the right healthcare professionals.
Attendees left with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to elevating the conversation and resources online for those living with type 2 diabetes. An immediate outcome was the introduction of a new hashtag to help identify information specific to those living with type 2 diabetes, #T2DOC, which attendees began using during the final session of the day. “We have many concerns in common with the broader #DOC, but we also need to address the unique challenges of living with type 2,” shared Jill Knapp, of Get up and Get Moving.
AstraZeneca thanks everyone who attended for their participation in the discussion. We look forward to watching and supporting the growth of the online community for those with type 2 diabetes, and to future opportunities to engage with this group of talented and committed individuals.