I’ve just returned from Berlin, where I attended the ATTD Conference for a week of super busy meetings, information gathering, collaborations and advocacy. At every turn, people with diabetes (many attending after being awarded a #dedoc° voices scholarship) were discussing how community advocacy is key to driving change. I heard about remarkable efforts from people across the globe who are genuinely improving the lives of people with diabetes in their part of the world. And when anyone had a question, or asked for advice, people were only too happy to offer and share.
Right now, if you’re in Australia and live with diabetes, especially type 1 diabetes, you may have heard the kerfuffle about Novo Nordisk’s Fiasp being withdrawn from the PBS after Novo Nordisk made the decision to withdraw Fiasp. The Government can’t compel them to keep it listed.
So what now? Well, now is the time to rally the troops. Already, grassroots advocacy efforts by people in the Australian diabetes community (and friends across the globe thanks to the #dedoc° network) are making a lot of noise. There’s a petition (with over 6,000 signatures) and there have been blog posts. Social media groups are lighting up with comments and questions. This is how a groundswell starts.
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You can also get political by reaching out to your local MP. I know that many people think that this is a daunting task, or believe that nothing will come of it. I counter that suggestion by pointing to any significant change in diabetes access in Australia. I’ve been in these trenches for decades now and know the effectiveness of people power. Community advocacy is often the starting point of rumblings that, combined with strong advocacy from diabetes organisations, leads to policy change. I can’t tell you how many letters I wrote back in the early 2000s before insulin pump consumables were on the NDSS. (I thought that the PM and health minister were going to take out restraining orders after I wrote to them both a couple of times each week for three years!) At one point, back in around 2002, I was invited to a meeting with Julia Gillard (in opposition at the time) who asked to speak with a group of diabetes advocates (did we even use that word then?) who had been regularly writing about the cost of pump therapy.
I also think of the incredible community efforts that lead to the Carers’ Allowance being changed back in 2010 so that the parents and carers of children continued to receive payments until their child was 16 years old, rather than being cut off when their child turned ten. Or the numerous letters I wrote, along with thousands of other people, to have CGM added to the Scheme. There have been other issues too – diabetes seems to mean one after another that needs attention.
Right now, the issue is Fiasp and you may be thinking about sending an email, but wondering where to start. Start with your story. Because only you can do that.
You can tell your story and write whatever you feel comfortable – your diabetes may vary and the way you advocate will too. I have some ideas I’m going to share below and I think they are worth considering when you are writing to your local MP. My philosophy is always to keep things short and sweet. I bring the heart with my story and add limited data to win over minds. Hearts and minds remains a central basis to my advocacy ideas. So, if you’re wondering where to start, here are some ideas that may help:
- They don’t know diabetes and don’t know details, so start with the basics and keep it to the point: I am writing about an issue affecting me as a person with diabetes and that issue is the withdrawal of Fiasp from the PBS. Fiasp is the only ultra-rapid insulin available in Australia and there is no comparable and easy swap to be made.
- Be clear about the issue: Fiasp is being withdrawn from the PBS. While it may be available on a private prescription this will make it too expensive for many people with diabetes, meaning a management option is being removed.
- Explain how that impacts you: As a person living with type 1 diabetes, I am required to take insulin every day. Fiasp is the insulin that works best for me and if I am no longer able to afford to use it due to it being removed from the PBS, my diabetes management will be negatively impacted.
- Be clear about your ask: I am asking for you to advise what the Government is doing to address this matter, and how it is working with Novo Nordisk to resolve the concerns of many people with diabetes who are worried we will no longer be able to afford the best treatment option for our diabetes.
Don’t ever believe that you are not going to be part of the movement that makes change. Just a minute in the Australian diabetes community right now is enough to see how a movement has already started. It’s organised and collaborative and the noise is already beyond a rumble. And you can add your voice.
I have worked in diabetes organisation for the last twenty-one years. Recently I joined the Global Advocacy Team at JDRF International as Director of Community Engagement and Communications and until earlier this year I was Head of Community and International Affairs at Diabetes Australia. My words on this blog are always my own and independent of my work and the organisations where I am working. My individual local and global advocacy efforts are in addition to my ‘day job’. I am also Global Head of Advocacy for ##dedoc°°.