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How can I find and join a diabetes support group in my area?

A number of approved diabetes education programs have affiliated support groups for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association approves diabetes education programs and keeps a record of their locations and contact information. At diabetes.org/communityprograms-and- localevents/whatslocal.jsp you will be connected to the ADA site called What's Happening Locally? On this site there is a link to ADA-recognized education programs and a link to a message board on which you can post a question about local support groups or other activities, or you can call your local ADA affiliate. The staff of your local diabetes center or clinic will also probably know contact information for their affiliated support groups. You may find that other people whom you know with diabetes are a good resource for this kind of information, although this is a somewhat hit-and-miss resource, as the majority of people with diabetes are not members of a support group. Your diabetes educator (or the diabetes educator your doctor generally refers to) is often involved in some way with the local support groups or will be aware of their existence and be able to provide you with contact information. If you are in a rural or isolated area, there may well be no local support group available. However, there is nothing to stop you from starting your own, if you have identified that there is a need for one!

I want to be an advocate for diabetes. Where should I start?

Advocacy for diabetes can have several meanings, from fundraising to raising public awareness in the media or political arena or working in the healthcare field with and on behalf of those with, or at risk for, diabetes. To assure your effectiveness as an advocate, bring your available experience, talents, and skills to the table and consider your commitment in time very carefully. Using your skills and experience will help to ensure that, when possible, you are doing on behalf of diabetes advocacy what you do successfully in your professional life and at which you are good. While it is not always possible to seamlessly blend your professional abilities with your work on behalf of diabetes, it is often possible to blend them quite well and this is true for those in all walks of life. It is a good idea to give very careful consideration to the time commitment that you are able to make and how you are able to make it. If you are available in blocks of time intermittently, this might suit you for commitment to support individual events, whereas if you are available more or less continuously, you could take up a more permanent position in an organization. Do remember that, even though your commitment may be as a volunteer, the success of others around you may still depend on the performance of your assigned responsibility. Therefore, a smaller commitment in time that you can realistically and consistently provide is likely to be of more value than a commitment that you may not be able to fulfill reliably. It is also less likely to place a burden of stress upon your work and personal life and upon those around you and will, in the long run, be more sustainable and rewarding for you and for the cause you are supporting.

Advocacy can be done on an individual level, but is often more effective when combined with the efforts and energies of others.

Advocacy can be done on an individual level, but is often more effective when combined with the efforts and energies of others, especially as part of an established organization that has a track record of success in moving the cause of diabetes advocacy forward. Therefore, contacting your local chapter of such an organization is often a good place to start. Which organization you choose will depend on where your personal interest in the issue lies. You might be particularly interested in type 1 or type 2 diabetes, adults or children, prevention or cure, individual complications, availability of medications to those who need them, or pregnancy and healthcare coverage, just to name a few possibilities. The American Diabetes Association (diabetes.org) and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International (jdrf.org) are key organizations. Introduction through a friend who is already engaged in advocacy can often help to get you where you need to go, but almost always staff will welcome your interest and direct you to the right place.

 
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