LFAC site visit: sharing expertise in Mexico

Emma Naughton, an International Development and Human Rights expert, and her husband Professor James Ron, have been supporters and advocates of the Life for a Child Programme for several years. In 2009 their son Sacha was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at the tender age of two, and whilst experiencing first-hand the complexity, expense, and hard work required to manage T1D in a child, Emma and James wondered how families in under-resourced communities handled the same challenges. “We discovered Life for a Child (LFAC) while searching online” says Emma, “their work resonated with both of us, and we began to support two children with diabetes in India. Since then, my husband has done site visits for the Programme in India and Morocco, and I have visited Mexico.”

In 2011 the family spent a sabbatical year in Mexico City. “While there, we met with the Mexican Diabetes Federation (FMD) and other T1D activists to lay some groundwork for partnerships between LFAC, FMD, and several local diabetes associations. Dr. Graham Ogle (LFAC General Manager) came to Mexico later to finalise the agreements. We fell in love with the country and the people, and are always eager to go back.”

In September 2013, Emma returned to Mexico to assess progress in LFAC partnerships, provide technical support, and develop a sense of additional needs. She spent three days in Mexico City meeting with FMD staff and national partners, and visiting a clinic at the Institute of Perinatology. The final three days allowed for travel to Merida, capital of Yucatán, and time with the local LFAC partner there - Emma met staff, the families of children managed by the clinic, and one of only two pediatric endocrinologists in the whole area (with a population of 970,000). She also conducted two home visits in Cansahcab, a small town two hours outside of Merida.

When asked what was surprising or eye opening about this trip, Emma replied: “Having spent a year in Mexico, I was familiar (intellectually, at least!) with many of the issues that families with children with T1D face, such as very little public awareness of T1D and confusion with type 2 diabetes, which is much more prevalent; vast socioeconomic inequalities and significant poverty, inadequate government insurance, sporadic supply of insulin, and a shortage of pediatric endocrinologists, diabetes nurse educators, or dieticians to support children and their families.

I was struck by the challenges faced by so many families trying their utmost to manage T1D in their child but who cannot afford the test strips to test blood glucose more than once or twice a day. For many families, making insulin adjustments is simply not possible, so they have a fixed basal rate and fixed bolus for each meal. Knowing from personal experience how much a child’s blood glucose can fluctuate (not to mention their carb intake or level of exercise), and how anxiety-provoking possible hypoglycemia can be, it makes me so sad and frustrated that these families cannot test their children regularly.

On the other hand, I was also amazed by the dedication, commitment, passion and warmth of the people that I met while in Mexico - activists, medical professionals, and especially the families and children supported by LFAC. Their resilience is truly inspirational.”

Life for a Child is extremely grateful to Emma for lending her time and considerable expertise to the programme.