An estimated 5,000 people are living with diabetes on the Isle of Man. That’s 6% of the Island, more than the entire population of Peel.
As anyone living with diabetes knows, managing the condition is constant and ongoing, with the associated observations typically overwhelming. For example, people with Type 1 diabetes — and those who are Type 2 insulin-dependent — need to continually monitor the food and bevs they’re consuming, adjusting their insulin accordingly to try and ensure that their blood glucose levels remain within the correct range.
They do this day in, day out, with many of them only receiving a handful of consultations with a healthcare professional per year. In fact, according to research, people with diabetes spend just three hours per year receiving one-to-one professional support from the healthcare industry. For the remaining 8,757 hours, they are left to manage the condition entirely by themselves.
This lack of access warrants better education for those living with (and managing) their diabetes.
Diabetes Isle of Man, formerly the Manx Diabetic Group but with a lick of sugar-free paint, is an on-Island charity that aims to fill in the gaps left by an overworked NHS.
Their overarching aim is to ensure that everyone impacted by diabetes in the Isle of Man receives the best care and treatment for their condition through the continuous improvement of front line care services and additional support.
Like all charities, its success depends almost entirely on donations received, with most, if not all, funds allocated to benefit those who are living with diabetes on-Island.
June 2019 saw the charity employ its first full-time member of staff, Gef alum and my trash-pop soul sister, Tash Parry. Tash was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 12 years old and is a ‘self-professed diabetes CHAMPION’ (her words, not mine).
Up until Tash’s appointment and the charity’s rebrand, Diabetes Isle of Man was a board-run charity with volunteers who got involved due to a connection with the condition, be it living with diabetes themselves or their relationship to a diagnosed family member.
With Manx Diabetic Group sounding like some kind of private members club with sugar-free snacks and gold-plated insulin syringes, the rebrand serves to create a sense of inclusivity for everyone on-Island, be that those with diabetes or diabetes carers: put simply, you don’t have to be diabetic to be involved or receive support.
Working closely with GPs, the hospital, and diabetes services to raise awareness, Diabetes IOM aims to form support groups Island-wide to assist diabetic communities. This education will eventually extend to a more grassroots level, with Tash attending schools and workplaces during critical diabetes Awareness Weeks or individual wellness initiatives, to raise awareness of the charity’s work and to highlight an individual’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes through a simple lifestyle questionnaire and the preventative steps you can take.
The most significant task faced by Tash and the charity is the general awareness of diabetes.
“The one thing that stands out to me the most is the lack of knowledge about diabetes,” says Tash. “1 in 2 people remain undiagnosed, and the majority of people don’t fully understand the condition.”
The charity’s next project (which is proving near-impossible due to something called coronavirus – never heard of it, mate) is the introduction of information packs to be handed out by GP services to ensure those diagnosed with, or at risk of developing, diabetes leave surgeries with signposting information, and information about the charity and their contact details.
They’ve also identified a gap in mental health support services for not only those with diabetes but most long-term conditions, with a lot of Diabetes IOM’s time spent developing a framework that will help people come to terms with a potentially life-changing diagnosis and provide an all-round better service.
Through ensuring people with diabetes get the checks they need and understand the changes that need to be made to one’s lifestyle, together with better education and support, Diabetes IOM is making a huge difference to the lives of people living with diabetes.
In February of this year, the charity and local parent-led campaign Monitors4Kids were successful in their mission to get continuous glucose monitors onto prescription for everyone with Type 1 diabetes.
The roll-out of this life-changing technology was due to start earlier this month for those who are eligible, but yesterday the Department for Health & Social Care announced a 3-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister for Health David Ashford has reassured those with the condition that the roll-out will still happen, and that this is just a delay for 3 months initially, to be reviewed again in 3 months’ time.
Tash commented; ‘This is disappointing news, but we completely understand the decision made by the Government. The roll-out process will include numerous face-to-face consultations with medical staff and training sessions which cannot be done at home, so it’s not really possible during this time.’
‘People with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are classed as higher risk when it comes to COVID-19, so it’s really important that glucose levels are kept in range and that we stay as healthy as possible. I’m trying to utilise my brief period of exercise each day with a walk or jog, as this is not only good for my glucose levels but for my mental health as well.
It’s important to stay on top of your prescription supplies, and if you’re a Type 1, make sure you have a working ketone meter with in-date testing strips, should you become unwell.
Diabetes Isle of Man remains active throughout this pandemic and we are available to support those who may need it, sometimes it’s just good to chat! Like everybody else, we’re just adapting to this new normal for the time being. We aren’t based out of our office at the moment, but you can keep in touch with us on social media, or send me an email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
If you want to learn more about Diabetes IOM, or to get involved with one of their many campaigns, you can visit www.diabetesisleofman.com.