ACBRD5Last night, I had the privilege of attending the fifth anniversary celebrations for the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes. The event was held at my favourite Melbourne building – the State Library – so I was able to get my geek girl on and wander the stacks before heading to the reception.

I have written frequently about the ACBRD because I am a huge fan and supporter of their work. Before the Centre was established, there was very limited attention being given to the psychosocial impacts of living with diabetes. Diabetes was presented as a numbers game. People with diabetes were talking about what living with diabetes actually meant – we understand the day-to-day implications and the distress and the burnout and the fear and the anxiety. But there was no one dedicated to researching these things.

Much work has been completed since the Centre started. All of it is of great value, but there are certainly some stand-out pieces for me:

  • The Diabetes Australia Language Position Statement, led by the ACBRD, which was launched back in 2011, is a much-needed ‘guide’ to assist journalists and HCP understand how to speak about and to people with diabetes. I can’t think of the number of times I have emailed, tweeted, handed-out a copy of this report to someone who has referred to PWD as non-compliant, a ‘diabetes sufferer’ or something equally damaging!
  • Dr Jessica Browne, Research Fellow, has been leading a world-first program researching the social stigma of diabetes. Reaching far and wide (Washington Post, anyone?) it is so wonderful to have evidence supporting what we have heard from PWD for so long – diabetes is stigmatising and that we often feel blamed and judged for having this condition. I’ve said it a million times and I will continue to say it until the stigma stops – ‘No one asks to get diabetes.’
  • The Diabetes MILES report still remains an important body of work. It was the first time that the psychological wellbeing of people with diabetes was investigated and the results confirmed what people living with diabetes already knew – emotional problems associated with living with diabetes are common, considerable and a very real part of living with diabetes.

The thing I love about the Centre is that in addition to conducting research and publishing articles, they actually provide practical tips and advice to HCPs about how to address these issues and concerns. And most pleasingly, they speak directly to and consult with people with diabetes.

As I explained in my talk last night, I have been lucky enough to present alongside Foundation Director Jane Speight on numerous occasions. The way this works is that I get up, rant, rave, wave my hands around and talk about the ‘living with it’ experience and then Jane gets up, speaks incredibly eloquently and provides the evidence to support what I have said. (So, thanks for making me look good, Jane!)

The always eloquent Professor Jane Speight. And me. Waving my arms around.

It was an honour to be able to celebrate the Centre’s first five years’ successes last night. Congratulations to all the ACBRD staff. Looking forward to seeing what you all do next!