Hi all, my name is Alex Silverstein and I am from the United Kingdom (London). I was born on the 7th November 1987, a week earlier than expected. Had I been born on the 14th November I would celebrate my birthday on World Diabetes Day. Therefore, perhaps it was fate that at age one I developed type 1 diabetes. Being diagnosed so young I can’t really imagine life without diabetes and this helps me to keep a positive attitude. My mother also thinks its the reason I did a degree in Mathematics, because I began playing with decimals when testing my blood glucose levels from age two. After Graduating from University in July 2009 I began volunteering for the Charity Diabetes UK in London. In March 2010 I began working fulltime for Diabetes UK and have done two roles, one as Manager of all volunteers in London and another as Young Adult Project Manager for the Charity.
There is a worldwide issue with confidence and acceptance for people with diabetes, this is made worse by the public perception of diabetes as something that is self inflicted or caused solely by obesity. The challenges for people with Diabetes in the UK is acceptance to talk about their diabetes and not feel like an outcast. This makes many people afraid to ask questions and strive for patient education. The deliverance of education for patients, healthcare professionals, carers and the public can increase awareness and understanding, the public perception and most importantly the confidence of people with diabetes to manage their own diabetes and realise that they are not alone. Education is also a short term investment to prevent the worldwide financial burden of treating DKA, Hypoglycemia and the early onset of complications caused by poor health literacy.
In the UK, for type 1 diabetes, people are treated every 3 or 6 months within a hospital under a consultant (especially if they have a pump). There they will see a diabetes specialist nurse, dietitian and psychologist too (if requested whilst in peadiatric care). Although this is not always the case and once they move to adult care, where it can become very difficult to receive these services (depending on where they live). Under the National Health Service (NHS) people with diabetes have free prescriptions and receive their insulin, needles, test strips and all medication free from their local Pharmacy, prescribed by their local doctor (called a GP/General Practitioner). People with type 2 diabetes are always seen by their GP only, unless they need specialist treatment due to complications (like foot care, eyes etc). If this is the case they will be seen in a hospital. In many places there are restrictions on how many test strips people with type 2 diabetes can have and this is true for type 1 in some places too.
Within Diabetes UK I started as a volunteer in 2008, helping to run a patient support group for Young Adults (aged 18-40). After University I moved back to London and setup another group, whilst also becoming an office volunteer within the Research Team at Diabetes UK Central Office in London. I then became one of the first volunteer Interns in 2009 supporting two pilot camps, one for Young Adults (18-25) and Young people (aged 7-10). In March 2010 I became a full-time employee at DUK managing volunteers across London. I managed the patient support groups, trained speakers, event volunteers and volunteers helping us to do risk assessments for people with type 2 diabetes. Finally, after becoming the inaugural YLD president in Dec 2011 I became the Diabetes UK Young Leaders Action Group Manager, helping to manage 40 young people age 16-30 to deliver projects to help young people with diabetes.
My YLD project was to create, develop and manage a youth advisory council for Diabetes UK. This project began in April 2012 and it was decided from the beginning that Young People should be involved with the designing of the group to show true co-creation. Therefore, a development group of 20-25 Young adults (aged 16-30) was recruited for three meetings across 2012, you can read more about our second meeting here.
This group helped to develop the structure, methods of operation and plans for this council throughout 2013. They decided on calling this council the Young Leaders Action Group and developed a fundraising proposal for three pilot services to be delivered for young adults with diabetes in 2013-2014. In March 2013 this proposal was awarded £100,000 by an external funder. They had three meetings of 30 young adults with diabetes from across the UK throughout 2013-2014 to help deliver these 3 services.
Thanks for reading! Alex