Posted on July 16th, 2012 by Admin
Editor's Note: Katherine P. is a patient/caregiver who submitted the following essay as part of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Patient, Caregiver Scholarship Contest. To vote, simply use the Facebook "Like" or Twitter "Tweet" buttons at the bottom of each post to share or leave a positive comment. The top vote-getters will be finalists.
As a young adult with diabetes, I am a believer in the positive impact social media can have on those living with a chronic illness. I was diagnosed with what appears to be Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), a slow onset of type 1 diabetes, in January 2010 at the age of 26. The diagnosis was a complete shock to me and left me feeling alone and anxious about my future. Knowing I needed to find support, I turned to Twitter in hopes of connecting with others with the disease. That turned out to be one of the best health decisions I could have made. From day one, I was welcomed by the diabetes online community and offered encouragement and understanding.
Since my first tweet more than two years ago, I have become an active participant in the community. I take part in the Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (#dsma) tweet chats and maintain a blog, 1LittlePrick, where I write about my journey with diabetes and my diabetes-friendly food creations. I have participated in many community-wide blog activities focused on diabetes education and advocacy, including three Diabetes Blog Weeks. Earlier this year, I was selected as the winner of a blog contest held by chef Sam Talbot, a “Top Chef” semi-finalist who has type 1 diabetes. My winning post discussed my experience with Talbot’s diabetes-focused cookbook, The Sweet Life, and as part of my prize, the chef created a personalized cooking demonstration video for me.
A perk of my engagement in social media is that it has resulted in many opportunities for in-person interactions as well. Thanks to Twitter, I found and joined a local team for JDRF’s Walk to Cure Diabetes less than a year after my diagnosis. Teaming up with others with diabetes, many of whom have lived with the disease for decades, was absolutely inspiring and made me realize my diagnosis was not a death sentence. On behalf of food organizations I did communications work for, I also had the opportunity to attend two AADE Annual Meetings. These events introduced me to many amazing people involved in diabetes education and advocacy, who I continue to follow and stay in touch with through social media.
Without social media there is no doubt in my mind that I would feel more alone with my diabetes. When I was first diagnosed, I knew no one with the disease. My interactions with health professionals were brief and impersonal. And research on medical websites left me with frightening articles about diabetes-related complications. It was not until I stumbled upon honest, smart, and humorous blogs written by others with diabetes that I realized there were other places I could find information and support.
As someone who feels fortunate to have found a community online, I want to help others do the same. I want to serve as an advocate for people living with chronic illnesses so that they may feel supported, informed, and empowered. Additionally, as someone finishing a graduate degree in food studies, who strongly believes in the connection between health and food, I want to use social media to help others find joy in preparing and eating healthy food.
I believe attending the Social Media Summit would arm me with information, tools, and ideas needed to help me achieve these goals. Additionally, I believe I would help the health community better understand what patients are looking for and talking about online. I can share insights from my personal experience and discuss where I see opportunities for health organizations to better utilize social media to educate, motivate, and engage with patients online.
I am excited by the idea of meeting with others in the health community who are interested in using social media as a way to connect with patients and caregivers, and believe the conference would be an inspiring experience both professionally and personally. Thank you for your consideration.
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