01 Jul 2022

Laois woman fighting for diabetes services for all

Laois woman fighting for diabetes services for all

Laura Cooke

Diabetes is a serious global public health issue which has been described by the WHO as the most challenging health problem in the 21st century with a high individual, social and economic burden.

As a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, affecting over 225,000 Irish people, diabetes places a significant burden on society and presents a growing challenge for the national economy. Our national annual expenditure on diabetes is estimated to be 12- 14% of the health budget with 60% of that budget spent on diabetes complications, many of which could be avoided with earlier detection, structured education programmes and regular access to diabetes review appointments.

Laura Cooke, founder of Laois Diabetes Support Group and a member of Diabetes Ireland Advocacy Group (DIAG) has lived with type 1 diabetes for 32 years.

“When you say you have type 1 diabetes people think that you just have to give an injection of insulin and you’re sorted. Nothing could be further from the truth” says Laura.

“The daily management and burden of this chronic (long-lasting) health condition is a constant daily task 24/7/365 in order to stay healthy and avoid diabetes complications such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage (neuropathy), kidney damage (nephropathy), eye damage (retinopathy) and foot problems.

“I have to count every single piece of food or drink that I put in my mouth. I have to plan and adjust my insulin for every activity I need to do, even down to housework or playing outside with my 5 year old son Daniel. You make hundreds of decisions every single day. It can be both physically and mentally draining,” she said.

Diabetes Ireland is calling on the Government to take eight immediate actions to improve diabetes healthcare services, to improve the quality of life for people living with diabetes, and to reduce the long-term costs to the health service of diabetes complications. These actions were identified by both people with diabetes and diabetes healthcare professionals.

They support the HSE National Clinical Programme for diabetes strategy for managing diabetes based on effective daily self management, which in turn will make huge savings for the government.
They also align with the Sláintecare ten-year plan for reforming the Irish health system towards universal health care, which aims to create a system where care is provided based on need, not ability to pay.

Laura met with TDs Brian Stanley (Sinn Fein) and Minister of State Sean Fleming (Fianna Fail) to discuss these actions and publicly present the pre-budget submission asking them to accept this proposal and take every opportunity to fight for these actions at government level.

Laura says: “Unfortunately, we can only estimate the number of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes in Ireland as there is no National Diabetes Register.

“How can we reduce the number of diabetes complications, introduce new services or enhance diabetes services that are already established when we don’t even know how many people live with diabetes in Ireland or where they live.

“When you are diagnosed with a lifelong condition that you know absolutely nothing about, it is vitally important that you are educated on how to manage the condition in the best way possible.
“In order to do that we must have specialist community/clinical diabetes teams, a dietitian and a psychologist as well as structured education programmes and training on the technologies that help us manage it to the highest possible standard.

“I have diabetes 32 years and I still need these services! I am very lucky and proud to say that the diabetes service I receive at Portlaoise General Hospital is second to none.

“I have an excellent Diabetes Nurse Specialist (Georgina) and dietitian (Lorraine) who are outstanding, but there are many areas around the country that don’t have any diabetes staff or services.

“The voice of people with diabetes is becoming louder and louder and hopefully with the help of our local TDs and our own individual communities we will be heard,” she concludes.

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