Highlights of the 2021 virtual Australasian Diabetes Congress

By Amelia Williams, Dr Edith Holloway, and Ralph Geerling

The Australasian Diabetes Congress (ADC) is the Annual Scientific Meeting hosted by the Australian Diabetes Society (ADS) and the Australian Diabetes Educators Association (ADEA). Around 1,200 delegates attended the 3-day meeting, which was held online from 11 to 13 August 2021.

The congress included several outstanding plenary lectures

      • Dr William Polonsky asserted that diabetes education can be ‘tedious, tiresome and dull’. He challenged the audience to reconsider their approach and ‘refuse to be boring’. Dr Polonsky’s lecture was based on his Outstanding Educator in Diabetes Award at the American Diabetes Association in 2020. You can read his article here if you missed the presentation.
      • Prof Satish Garg gave an excellent overview of new treatments and technologies in the management of diabetes. However, he also showed that many people across the world cannot afford insulin, and there are still many inequities in diabetes outcomes. The Limbic has summarised his lecture here.
      • Prof Richard Holt gave an outstanding overview of mental health issues in diabetes, from diabetes distress and depression to the management of diabetes in people with mental health disorders.
      • Prof Richard Osborne gave an engaging presentation on health literacy and the role of health professionals in improving care. He discussed novel tools, training and interventions to improve health literacy. This includes people’s knowledge and confidence to access, understand, evaluate, remember and use information about health and health care. He shared practical applications of these nationally and globally. For example, Ophelia: Optimising Health Literacy and Access.

Other sessions that caught our attention

      • Dr Anita De Bellis, a researcher at Flinders University, also gave an interesting presentation on the experiences of ‘grey nomads’ with diabetes management. ‘Grey nomad’ refers to older adults who undertake extended travel around Australia, usually in retirement, in mobile homes. A survey of 103 ‘grey nomads’ found that they were often able to manage their diabetes well through planning, preparation and using self-management strategies. However, some faced difficulties such as: accessing healthcare services, health professionals not knowing their health history, lack of routine, irregular glucose monitoring, lack of fresh food, not bringing backup medical equipment, not bringing backup scripts, and not having an action plan. Dr De Bellis plans to use these findings to create a checklist that can be used to help people with diabetes and their health professionals prepare for rural and remote travel. This valuable research will help to empower people to manage their diabetes while enjoying the ‘grey nomad’ lifestyle.
      • On Wednesday afternoon, the ADEA Exercise Symposium included four fantastic presentations plus a Q&A panel on the how, what, when and why of including exercise as part of diabetes management. Drew Harrisberg, from Diabetes Australia, is a fitness professional who is living with type 1 diabetes. He provided an overview of various exercise types, and the role each can play in diabetes self-care. Drew highlighted the biological mechanism known as ‘GLUT4 translocation’. He described this as a type of physiological hack that enables glucose to enter the cells from the bloodstream in the absence of insulin when a person performs physical activity. This is very important because insulin is usually needed for the active transport of glucose into cells. In the case of the person with diabetes where insulin is not produced, or the body’s sensitivity to insulin is reduced, Drew outlined the benefits of activating this GLUT4 mechanism through exercise with a variety of different exercise types. Interestingly, Drew has found that this provides not only physical benefits but also psychological benefits. This includes feelings of empowerment and optimism in knowing he was able to exert some personal control over his diabetes through exercise.

Visit the Australasian Diabetes Congress website here.

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