Children with Diabetes Conference Update and Recap

Beth McNamara Health Guide

  • Yesterday was the first of two days of educational programming at the Children With Diabetes Conference held June 8 to June 12 in Orlando, Florida. Not surprisingly, I wanted to attend four times as many sessions than the three-session-per-day schedule allowed. The sessions I sat in on offered much insight and although I plan on writing full posts (and then some) on the material at a later date, I wanted to offer some short snippets from each now.


    I'm a big fan of going back and reviewing what I've already learned (since I tend to usually be on overload and forget a lot of things), and I wisely chose to attend Dr. Fran Kaufman's back-to-basics session. Dr. Kaufman, a 30-year veteran in the field of diabetes medicine, currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer at Medtronic. She started her discussion with sage words to live by, saying that "Life with diabetes is a journey, and this journey will have forks in the road." She admitted, as an adoptive parent of a Type 1 diabetic, that: "It is easier to be the doctor than the parent." 

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    Interestingly, a key takeaway from Dr. Kaufman's session had, I feel, a strong tie-in to the state of the U.S. healthcare system and its reform. She mentioned that in the U.S. about 25 to 30% of children are in DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) when they are diagnosed as Type 1 diabetics. However, in Italy, the number is less then 10%. Why? Because Italy has invested in a large public awareness campaign for healthcare providers, schools, and the consumers, have canvassed towns with posters informing the public about Type 1 and its symptoms and likewise offering a phone number to call for free diagnostic testing. Since Italy does offer universal healthcare, Italians have no constraints of seeing a doctor if they feel their child is symptomatic of Type 1.


    Dr. Kaufman went to tell of what she felt was the biggest risk to Type 1 diabetics here in the U.S, which is what few in the session would have guessed: the country does not have enough doctors willing to go into the field. Rather, medical school students are opting for less demanding and higher paying specialties.


    Next, I sat in on Dr. Bill Polonsky's session on Diabetes Etiquette, which presented rules of how to discuss diabetes and its impact on behaviors like eating, carb counting, glucose monitoring, etc. Views were presented from all those that surround the diabetes perspective by 360 degrees, including the diabetic, the parent, and those who don't have diabetes.  Central to this discussion were the dreaded Diabetes Police.


    Polonsky, a licensed clinical psychologist and the founder and president of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, has partnered with Roche Diagnostics to put together diabetes etiquette cards which are fold-out brochures the size of a standard business card. The first set of these etiquette cards targets people that don't have diabetes, and presents 10 easy rules of how to interact with someone who is diabetic. One of my favorites is Rule #3: "Don't tell me horror stories about your grandmother or other people with diabetes you have heard about ... Diabetes is scary enough, and stories like these are not reassuring!"


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    Dr. Jill Weissberg-Benchell's session on Adolescent Tipping Points riveted me, particularly because I have a 13-year-old diabetic. She reminded her audience that we need to think of how we can help teenagers when they are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated because they have one the most complicated, difficult and exhausting diseases to manage ... every day. She encouraged parents to not assume that their teenagers doesn't care - they do - they just might not care about the exact same things or at the same time as parents do. Furthermore, Weissberg-Benchell added that we should focus on the whole child, not simply the pancreas and therefore a BG number. The session covered seven tipping points as they relate to diabetes, including depression, eating disorders, unrealistic expectations, family conflict, and real life priorities.


    Finally, my day was bookended by the morning keynote presentation given by Tom Karlya (Diabetes Dad) and then the Friends For Life with Jeff Hitchcock, CWD founder, speaking on the past 10 years of the Friends for Life Conference. I will end with a quote from each:


                " Kids can make a difference in the world ... and they will." Tom Karlya


                " Our children can, and will, live a wonderful life." Tom Hitchcock


Published On: July 10, 2009