Life for a Child - Diabetes in the Developing World

Editor's Note: This article was originally written by patient expert Kim Benjet.

Children with diabetes in developing countries face profound challenges in managing their diabetes. Now the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has a new forum to tell this story. A documentary, "The Life for a Child", follows three families and their diabetic children through their daily routine complete with insulin injections, blood sugar testing, and long trips to the doctor. The short documentary   premiered this past weekend at the prestigious Tribecca Film Festival, the festival Robert DeNiro spearheaded after 9/11.   Directed by Academy Award nominee Edward Lachman and produced by the IDF and the Eli Lilly Company, the film has been accepted into the short documentary competition.

It's only a short 16 minute documentary but it details a compelling story and it reminded me how lucky my son was to be diagnosed in the United States where we have access to the most up-to- date diabetes treatments. Current treatments like insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors must seem like science fiction to the children depicted in the documentary. As I wrote in November 2007, we all have much work ahead of us to assure that children worldwide reap the benefits of Western medical advances. IDF's Life for a Child program provides critical resources to help children in the developing world access the basic supplies to survive the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

The film was shot in Nepal, an IDF site and one of the poorest countries in the world. Clips of the three families can be seen here on the Life For a Child website.   One family was forced to move from their village to the city to be near a hospital to receive diabetes care. Another travels hours to see her doctor and as her father said in the film,    "If her sugar is under control it will take 4 hours to walk to the bus, if it is not it will take 6". It's heart wrenching to hear a child worry about the cost of her insulin and the price it extols on her family. Another boy travels monthly to the hospital to get his insulin because he has no way to keep his supplies temperature controlled in his home.

According to their website IDF's Life for a Child program supports 1000 children in 17 countries. IDF is a recognized United Nations non-governmental organization (NGO). Through the Life for Child program IDF provides access to diabetes supplies (insulin, syringes, blood glucose monitoring) as well as promotes  efforts to build local capacity and government capacity to create sustainable solutions to diabetes care.

The Life for a Child initiative was established in 2001 by the Australian Diabetes and Hope Worldwide.  It gained worldwide recognition in 2006 when the UN declared International Diabetes Day and recognized diabetes as a worldwide threat that needs a concerted effort to fight. Diabetes is the first chronic disease to receive such attention.

More information about the documentary Life for a Child and the Tribecca Film Festival can be found here.