We’ve been traveling the world for the past year or so, bringing you different perspectives on life with diabetes in our Global Diabetes Series. This month, we’d like to introduce you to Claudia Labate, a twenty-something in Brazil (the worlds’ 5th largest country), who’s lighting up the D-scene as part of multiple advocacy efforts in her country.
Diagnosed at age 10, Claudia says she feels lucky to have great support from family and friends. She’s been heavily involved in the organizations ADJ Diabetes Brasil and International Diabetes Federation’s Young Leaders Program, promoting diabetes education and awareness. Some of her work includes organizing flash mobs, helping to create an educational children’s book, and leading motivational exercises for support groups. Claudia has been using her marketing degree as a tool to make changes, helping to produce something that she feels simultaneously improves consumer satisfaction, an organization’s health and the overall welfare of society — in her words, she’s “converging people and profits!”
Plus, Claudia started a diabetes blog, Labate Lab, earlier this year, so she’s a member of the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) as well.
Here’s what our friend and fellow PWD in South America has to say:
A Guest Post by Claudia Labate
Olá! My name is Claudia! I’m 24 years old and I’m part of the 13.4 million people living with diabetes in Brazil. In 1998, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, two weeks before the New Year’s celebration. But this didn’t prevent me from celebrating those holidays according to our traditions.
So, for the Christmas of 1998 we did a few adjustments. We added some new plates to our menu, such as salad and ricotta dessert. We changed our meal time from midnight to 9 p.m., because at that time I was using NPH and R insulin and it was unlikely to skip a meal without a hypoglycemia. To tell the truth, I think my grandparents loved that time change!
And those early days of adjusting our schedules took us to the New Year of 1999.
My family, as well as millions of Brazilians, likes to spend New Year’s Eve at the beach, and that year wasn’t different. My endocrinologist guided us to buy extra test strips, needles and insulin, ensuring that there were enough supplies, and, of course, extra diet soda and diet candies and desserts!
New Year’s Eve in Brazil has a widespread influence of Umbanda and Candomblé, religious traditions brought from African slaves when Brazil was a colony of Portugal. This includes jumping seven waves (for good luck) and making a wish for the future, wearing white clothes (or pick another color, based on the things you want to achieve in the next year — white is for peace, yellow for money, black to bury the past, pink for love, etc., that you can use in your underwear or accessories), and lighting candles on the beach or throwing roses into the sea for Iemanjá. Furthermore, we have some mysticism related to the food we eat at New Year’s Eve. For example, rice with lentils is a “must eat” to have luck in the new year.
At the time I was diagnosed, the supplies needed to be purchased by the patient. This was very difficult because most of the products were imported and few people could afford the prices. Since 2006, it changed with the creation of the Federal Law No. 11,347, which defined criteria for free distribution of medicines and supplies needed for the control and monitoring of diabetes.
In spite of the law, we still have problems to distribute it efficiently to the entire country, because, besides being a very large country, the regions of Brazil are very different in terms of culture, geography and economics. With this, some economically more developed regions, such as São Paulo and the other southeast states, have easier access to such medicines and education in comparison to other regions of the country. We also have an inequality to health care access in general; the public service is unified (called SUS), but it’s normally on the private health insurance that people can find better professionals and treatments.
According to the 5th International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Atlas, 50% of the people living with diabetes in Brazil are undiagnosed. A survey from 2009, conducted by the Federal University of São Paulo and Oswaldo Cruz Foundation from Bahia, shows that 75% of people with diabetes do not control the disease, based on A1C tests. In 2012, Brazil’s Ministry of Health stated that diabetes kills more than AIDS and traffic accidents.
It reveals that we need a large improvement in diabetes education (to properly use the supplies provided by the government) and people’s awareness on their rights guaranteed by law.
I feel very lucky about the opportunities I’ve had for access and care, and that is the reason why I like to take action on diabetes. Since 2009, I’ve volunteer for diabetes in support groups, detection campaigns, camp, social media administration, and last year I was chosen by ADJ Diabetes Brasil to take part in the IDF Young Leaders Program. There I meet the most AWESOME people from across the globe. We are like a family, sharing the feeling of being part of the change we want to see in the world!
Back in São Paulo, I started a task force called Blue Power, to create and multiply actions in the month we celebrate the World Diabetes Day, organizing flash mobs, the Blue Bike Tour around São Paulo, hosting a Scavenger Hunt from (Canadian D-group) Connected in Motion, different types of meetings and partnerships with various players (not connected to diabetes area) to spread the WDD message. We estimate that our actions reached around 70.000 people, summing the online and offline public.
There’s a lot already happening in Brazil as well as in South America to improve diabetes education, treatment and rights. Last November, the country members of the (South American free trade) MERCOSUR agreement laid plans for obesity prevention in the region and set targets for NCDs (non-communicable diseases) with support of global, regional, and local action plans.
This Christmas, I asked Santa to bring further democratization on medicines access in Brazil and a lot of development in diabetes education projects. Furthermore, following our New Year’s Eve tradition, I will leap my seven waves dressed in green, my favorite color, wishing health for all diabetes community around the world!
Happy 2013, everybody!
Thanks for all the great work you’re doing in the D-Community, Claudia! We hope our worlds intersect more often and we get to interact in the ever-expanding DOC as it crosses borders.