Young diabetes leader talks of her pride in Australia’s support 3 February 2023 By Jenna Cantamessa Diabetes Australia contacted me last year to ask if I’d be the Australian Young Leader in Diabetes (YLD) for the International Diabetes Federation’s two-year YLD program. I didn’t have to think twice about the opportunity! I’ve been part of the online diabetes community for more than five years now and it has brought me incredible opportunities to connect with people living with diabetes around Australia and internationally. Early in December last year, YLD representatives including me travelled from 50 countries to Lisbon, Portugal, for the World Diabetes Congress and the YLD Training Summit. The YLD cohort were incredible, and I can’t quite find the words to express how special it was to be in the same room together, communicating our lived experience with type 1 diabetes. We all share a common goal to improve the lives of people with diabetes. Being in that room, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the success that Australia had in 2022 within the diabetes space. In July, the Federal Government rolled out the Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) and Flash Glucose Monitoring subsidy. From December 1, the Omnipod Dash subsidy was also available. All Australians living with type 1 diabetes are eligible for the subsidies. Other representatives from many countries who were with me in the room haven’t been so fortunate. Devastatingly, many low to middle income countries don’t have access to diabetes technology, with some lacking access to the bare necessities that keep those of us living with type 1 diabetes alive, such as insulin and basic glucose monitoring supplies. Access to these items should absolutely be a human right, but currently it isn’t. Living with type 1 diabetes is like having a second full-time job. It requires constant attention, 24/7, with no breaks. “You’re quietly living through this daily grind that few people know about – it can be quite isolating,” said another YLD delegate, Alexander Zverev. Type 1 diabetes is a complex condition that demands constant human manual input on a daily basis, (blood glucose level testing several times a day, multiple daily injections/pump cannula changes etc). In Australia at the beginning of February there are 136,810 people living with type 1 diabetes, according to the National Diabetes Services Scheme map, and almost 1.3 million Australians are living with type 2 diabetes. More than 300 Australians develop diabetes every day. That’s one person every five minutes, as quoted by Diabetes Australia. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 19 years of age and decided five years in that I wanted to contribute to the ever-growing online diabetes community as I felt strongly about giving this invisible disease a visual and voice. I felt I could do this through digital art and words. People living with diabetes are tired of the many misconceptions and negative stigma attached to diabetes and hope that with education and awareness these misconceptions will eventually be eliminated. The YLD Program saw us in sessions from early morning until evening over four days. We heard from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) President, discussed global diabetes initiatives, and engaged with pharmaceutical companies such as Novo Nordisk and Dexcom. We heard directly from the World Health Organization (WHO) about the global diabetes commitments and formed discussions on how they were going to be implemented and evaluated. We heard from members of the T1D Index and IDF Diabetes Atlas and how to best use these vital tools for data to drive advocacy efforts. It was great to be a part of a group of young advocates from across the globe working together and building networks of support to advance our advocacy and efforts within our countries. Over the next two years I’ll be working with and supported by Diabetes Australia to deliver a series of projects both online and within Townsville. I can’t thank this instrumental organization enough for the work they do in our country for people living with diabetes.