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 currently my job is to look after the Diabetes UK Young Leaders Action Group.
From an early age diabetes gave me structure, challenges to overcome and an appreciation for my health and the importance of living a lifestyle full of exercise and a well balanced diet. Throughout school I had the best attendance record in the year and hardly missed a day due to illness, in my opinion this was thanks to my diabetes.
On my fourth birthday I walked into a supermarket and said to the man at the checkout, “My name is Alex, its my birthday today and I have diabetes”. He was slightly shocked but replied “Happy birthday Alex and congratulations on your diabetes”. My mother was extremely proud because she had taught me that living with Type 1 diabetes was something to be proud of, not to hide from.
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.
After being elected President for two years, I will strive to work with the other young leaders around the world to get this project off the ground and do my best to help the IDF to ensure that no matter where in the world someone is born or how much money they have, they will have access to what I call the three E’s of Diabetes care. These are:
- Equipment (especially access to all who need it),
- Education (for both people with diabetes, healthcare professionals and the general public) and
- Empathy (this is a combination of peer support for people with diabetes and an understanding from friends, families, healthcare teams and places of education or employment of what exactly people with diabetes need to manage their condition).
Within Diabetes UK I would like to help them establish a centre of excellence for Young Adults with Diabetes across the entire UK. This will include a network of people with diabetes, healthcare professionals and politicians involved in healthcare provision, who can campaign to ensure everyone receives the correct level of equipment and education to help them manage their diabetes. The group will also act as a support network for people with diabetes to get reliable and relevant information and peer support to help them deal with the challenges of living with diabetes.
My YLD project is 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 <a href="http://youngleaders.idf.org/activities/article/diabetes-uk-young-leaders.... 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 will now have four meetings of 40 young adults with diabetes form across the UK throughout 2013-2014 to help deliver these 3 services.