A blogger’s view: Mike Young

Perhaps better known by his online persona, “El Gringo”, Mike answers our questions this quarter on diabetes care in Spain, how the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) has supported him and why all people with diabetes need to get online!

What do you see are the main differences between the diabetes blogging community in Europe and USA? Do you think it is quieter or less active? I see many differences not only between Europe and the USA but also between Spain and Europe.  I think it is generally acknowledged that USA healthcare is more "patient centric" concerning diabetes care and that often translates into how people with diabetes engage with others including doctors and other members of their health/diabetes care team.

I see many differences not only between Europe and the USA but also between Spain and Europe.

The Spanish community is still in its infancy however there are signs that it is growing.  Patients are now starting to engage locally for example through diabetes associations. Blogging tools are now easily accessible and connecting the dots has never been easier given the rise in social media usage.

Can you tell us a bit about your site Diabetes in Spain, what is its mission and do you have an active following? Are your followers mainly from Spain? What are some of the most important issues you discuss on the site? The Diabetes in Spain website started in April 2009, having been a resident since 2002. The original intention was to share news, information for people living in Spain and people visiting Spain.  This still remains the primary objective.

The majority of my active followers are expatriates who are either resident or spend the majority of their time in Spain.

The main issues discussed are ones involving access to healthcare. That presents a sizable challenge here in Spain.

The main issues that are discussed are ones that involve access to healthcare and that presents a sizable challenge here in Spain.  From a diabetes standpoint the main topics would be the availability of diabetes medicines such as specific insulin, tablets and of course test strips.

How have you seen diabetes care improve (or not) in Spain? What are your frustrations? Do you feel fortunate not to live in the USA with diabetes?
Diabetes care has naturally improved here in Spain.  There is a slow (generation) cultural and shift taking place which I hope will allow for a more empowered patient and one who will help drive diabetes care to be more "patient" centric.

Similar to many countries, I believe that many simply want more diabetes care to be more consistent.  One hopes for a more unified delivery of diabetes care in keeping with up with the developments in both diabetes care and technology.

I believe that many simply want diabetes care to be more consistent.

That said, I have never been able to fault the Spanish healthcare system especially given that healthcare is subsidised including medicines. Given that many people around the world have great difficulty in paying for insulin and diabetes supplies especially in the USA. 

For that, I am very grateful that the financial burden is somewhat softened for both me and those in Spain who require such expensive medication to stay alive.

For you, why is the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) important?
The DOC has been a lifesaver for me. It has allowed me to connect with people who are seemingly so distant given their locations such as North America, Australia/New Zealand and throughout the UK/Europe!

Quite often the DOC will in reality know what is happening before the news outlets...

Knowing that you can talk with others online 24 hours a day, every day of the year and whom understand the day to day challenges and frustrations that living with diabetes entails, is amazing.

For me it is also a great way to find out what is happening in the diabetes industry.  Quite often the DOC will in reality know what is happening before the news outlets as the patient/pharma barrier slowly breaks down and engagement increases.

How would you encourage people with diabetes to become active online?
My main advice would be, if you're not onine, get on there now! Simply reading through some of the leading blogs and forums will bring immediate assurance that, "You are not alone".

The emergence of Twitter and Facebook brings the DOC closer together and allows for a greater level of engagement.

The DOC is "Glocal".  Using social media to connect globally is great but at times you need someone local.  Connecting with the Global DOC can help locate people who are local to you.

Those who are online, I would encourage them to share more, speak more, write more, engage more. Whatever they feel most comfortable doing.

Prefer using Facebook, then stick with what you know!  Prefer Twitter, come check out some of the brilliant Twitter Chats online every week.  Such as #DSMA or #GBDOC in the UK and hopefully soon #ESDOC here in Spain.

Mike Young, aka elGringoinspain has been "Pancreatically Challenged" since April 1998.  Mike started up his blog Diabetes in Spain in 2009.  Also Co-Founder of #ESDOC on Twitter.

A lover of football, health care social media and photography, the latter trying to keep him out of trouble and will often be seen uploading many sunset pictures onto Flickr, Facebook and Twitter.