Last week, I sat glued to my Twitter stream watching the tweets from two separate events that had a strong diabetes consumer (or, if you prefer, patient) presence. Firstly, there was the Roche Diabetes Summit (#RDS12) which brought together 34 diabetes bloggers from across the USA. You can read some terrific reports about the summit here and here.

Immediately following the Roche Summit was the American Association of Diabetes Educators (#AADE12) Conference. Once again, the Twittersphere was full of commentary about the different sessions, blogs were written and Facebook pages provided reviews and photos from the conference. I learnt a lot about what was going on, what new things were catching the attention of members of the diabetes online community (DOC) and I noted things that I want to speak with my endo about next time we meet.

Coming up later this month is the Australia Diabetes Educators Association/Australian Diabetes Society conference. I’m going which is pleasing on a number of levels, not the least of which is that it is on the Gold Coast which will mean some slightly warmer weather. The main reason I’m excited though, is because I will be able to ‘report back’.

How many consumer advocates will be attending the Australian conference next week? I’m guessing not too many.

You may ask why it’s important to have people with diabetes at these events. It’s a valid question. I mean, the events are for health professionals to do some professional development, some networking and find out the latest in the diabetes world. The sessions are not designed for consumers, really.

And that’s all relevant and true. But how does the information presented at these conferences then get filtered through to people living with diabetes?  How do we find out about the latest and greatest, the new research, the new studies? In all honesty, how many of us have health professionals who relay this information back to us?

My endo is one of the few that actually does. We speak about conferences she’s attended and new things presented. In fact, part of my screening (read: interviewing) process when I look for health professionals is to ask what conferences they’ve attended recently and what they’ve found interesting. It gives me an idea of how up-to-date their knowledge base is. But more importantly, it gives great insight into how well they then pass on that information.

So, let me ask again: Why is it important to have people with diabetes at these events? It’s critical, because it means that the information gets passed on to us – the people living with it. Which better informs us. Which helps us make decisions about our care to improve outcomes.

There needs to be a shift in Australia. People with diabetes need to be part of the planning of conferences.  If we are (or diabetes is) ‘the problem’ then we need to be part of – actually, leading – the road to the solution.  I wrote about this last year, but as each year passes, and as I see more and more evidence of consumer involvement in other countries, I wonder why we seem to be so behind the times.

We need to be there in numbers and we need to be recognised as a way to get messages out. It’s a revolution in terms of the place of consumers. But our rightful place is front and centre at information sessions talking about the condition with which we live. And the time is now.

So, with this in mind and knowing that I’ll be at the ADEA conference later in the month, what is it that you want me to report back? Have a read of the program and in the comments section below let me know if there is anything you want more information about. And I’ll try to get to the sessions, tweet and blog about it.

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