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Very First Diabetes UnConference Highlights Peer-to-Peer Support for Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Twitter summary: First ever #Diabetes UnConference brings patients with #t1d and #t2d together for support, w/ comments from @sixuntilme + @scottkjohnson

A new type of conference hit Las Vegas earlier this month, where almost 100 people living with diabetes gathered for emotional support and connection at the first ever Diabetes UnConference. Patient advocate Christel Marchand Aprigliano created the meeting to, in her words, subvert the idea of a traditional conference where experts offer their opinions and advice; instead the event promoted peer-to-peer support and enabled attendees to shape the agenda and discussion. The meeting also established a “social media blackout” to foster a safe space for sharing experiences of living with diabetes, especially on the emotional and mental fronts. For compelling reflections on what it was like to attend this year’s UnConference, please see below.

From speaking with Christel, we learned that the 2016 Diabetes UnConference will be March 10-13, 2016 in Las Vegas. Registration will open on May 1st. She informed us that two major additions to the existing Diabetes UnConference will occur in 2016: (i) they will add an East Coast conference in the fall of 2016 in order to lower travel costs for some; (ii) they will also add separate sessions for spouses, significant others, family members, and close friends in response to feedback that loved ones also need a safe environment in which to share and learn about the psychosocial aspects of diabetes. Christel also expressed that next year, the UnConference will hope to focus on a smaller number of topics (still chosen by the attendees) so that they have more time to dive deeper into the chosen subjects.

Reflections from UnConference Attendees:

As diabetes advocate Scott Johnson said, “You could talk about your fears, your joys, shed your tears, or burst out laughing … This safe place to share opened all of us up and got conversations going like nothing I've been a part of before. The key takeaways for me were the ‘me too’ and walls of isolation crumbling apart. For some, it was the first experience like that, and it was very emotional.”

Kate Cornell, who blogs about her experience with type 2 diabetes, commented that, “The UnConference was the most thrilling experience I’ve had when it comes to my life with diabetes. Being surrounded by individuals who were all different, yet the same. We all had our own unique stories and experiences with diabetes but we all understood each other without explanation.”

diaTribe writer and diabetes advocate Kerri Sparling* recalled a powerful moment when she realized “the whole point of the diabetes community is that we are strong in what unites us as well as what makes us different.  One size doesn’t fit all, and neither does one emotional response. I loved these moments because they woke me up and reminded me of the diversity of our experiences.”

NL

* Kerri Sparling’s attendance was made possible by Animas (one of nine event sponsors).

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