I first heard of the International Diabetes Federation’s (IDF) Young Leaders in Diabetes (YLD) Program when I attended the World Diabetes Congress in Dubai in 2011. There, I met some of the young leaders and heard about the program’s aims and intentions.

Alex and Renza

Alex Silverstein at the opening ceremony of the World Diabetes Congress in Melbourne last December. He’s usually less elaborately painted up!

I knew just how valuable and important this program would be when I first met Alex Silverstein in Chicago last year. Alex was the first President of the YLP and I could see why he had been selected to take on this role in the program’s early years. He’s smart, dynamic, passionate about the cause, funny and just a downright nice guy – I’m blessed to call him a mate. I’ve been lucky enough to meet up with him again at other conferences, including in Melbourne where he handed over the presidency to the equally awesome Keegan Hall.

In the lead up to the World Diabetes Congress in Melbourne last year, the YLD representatives spent some time together working with diabetes advocates and HCPs for their Leadership Training. They discussed global diabetes issues, how to effectively communicate and advocate were covered. I was invited to attend the session on social media use and was amazed at the enthusiasm and commitment in the room. The program involves 132 young people from 70 countries around the world, each with a different story about life with diabetes.

We need advocates with strong voices and the IDF should be commended for bringing together this group. Under the direction of Debbie Jones and Paul Madden and a smart and dedicated faculty, this program provides a voice for young people living with diabetes from around the world, many of whom would otherwise not have the opportunity to tell their stories and advocate the needs of their peers. Many are focusing their energies on highlighting issues such as access to insulin in countries where this life-saving drug is considered a luxury and the associated costs prohibitive.

The Aussie YLD contingent (plus an old bag).

The Aussie YLD contingent (plus an old bag).

Our Australian representatives on the YLD program are three of the most intelligent young women I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Ashley, Stephanie and Rachel did us all proud in Melbourne at the IDF Conference. They continue to be advocates for young people with diabetes in Australia through the YLD Program as well as the Diabetes Australia Young Leaders Program.  Ashley is a regular blogger and has recently been involved in setting up a Facebook page to bring together young adults with type 2 diabetes.

See some of the young leaders in action in this great new video.