I'm a huge fan of Jeff Hitchcock — one of the most famous figures in the diabetes community.  He's founder of the Children with Diabetes website, which serves millions of pages each month to thousands of people around the world. Jeff launched CWD in 1995 as a way for his young daughter Marissa to meet others with diabetes, and it has since become one of the top destinations online for diabetes information.  In 2000, they started the first national diabetes conference for children and families in Orlando, Florida, which grew from 500 people to a few thousand each July. Last March, CWD was purchased by Johnson & Johnson, the makers of the Lifescan glucose meters.

We recently caught up with Jeff to chat (OK, "fireside" in spirit only) about the progress of diabetes research, CWD's new relationship with J&J, and his plans and expectations for 2009.

 

As long-time president of CWD, you've witnessed every meaningful recent milestone in diabetes research while also hearing every promise known to man. In your opinion, what was the most significant step forward for the diabetes community in 2008?

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From my personal perspective, 2008 brought many important accomplishments. Excellent results from clinical studies suggest that continuous glucose monitoring works, which could pave the way for broader insurance coverage. Several closed-loop studies continued to show evidence of excellent outcomes in the laboratory, paving the way for possible in-home trials and an eventual closed loop system.

What do you predict will be the biggest accomplishment in 2009?

For this year, I am hopeful that we will see universal insurance coverage of sensors, but more importantly I am hopeful that the new administration will begin to address an even more important challenge: ensuring that everyone with diabetes can afford the tools and medicines that they need to live a healthy, happy, and long life.

What kind of influence has Johnson & Johnson had on CWD in the past 10 months? What role will it have in the future?

Being part of a large corporation lends CWD the resources to reach beyond what we might have been able to accomplish on our own. Examples are the additional educational conferences scheduled in Canada and the UK in 2009.

As far as specific influence, I know that there was worry in the diabetes community about CWD becoming part of the J&J family of companies, but CWD continues to do what we have always done. Our mission is to provide education and support to families living with type 1 diabetes. That mission has not changed and it will not change.

{All right, Jeff, we forgive the PR answer there}

What do you think is the best role a pharmaceutical company can play in the diabetes community, amongst blogs and social networks?

Online communities and social networks provide an excellent source of education and support for families living with diabetes. We share experiences, learn about best practices, and gain the confidence we need to succeed. I believe that companies involved in diabetes are partners in our care and have a rightful place in these online communities. By participating openly, our industry partners can learn about challenges we have with not just their products but with our care in general and can use that knowledge to build better medicines and tools, which in the end promotes healthier lives for all of us.

What can people look forward to seeing from Children with Diabetes in 2009?

The biggest news for 2009 is that CWD will hold its first international Friends for Life conference in the UK in August. I'm very excited about sharing the CWD experience with more families from outside the United States, and hope that our UK conference is just the first step in expanding our role in the education and support of our families living with diabetes.

Finally, since CWD is extending its reach internationally, can you share some of the differences in how diabetes is perceived and managed outside the US? How does this impact how you serve your audience online and through the conferences?

Good question, and I'm not sure that I can answer it. Perhaps a CWD parent from Canada or the UK would be better? However, I have seen a couple of general themes. One is that people in countries with national health care coverage are bewildered at how the US pays for medical care — especially the challenge of people with diabetes who don't have health insurance being unable to afford their medicine and diabetes supplies. Another is the flip side of that equation — that in the US, if you have insurance coverage, you can get anything — insulin pumps, continuous sensors, insulin analogs. That isn't always the case outside the US.

So, as we bring CWD outside the US, we must ensure that the educational components of our conferences reflect the best practices in the country where we hold the conference, and we do that by enlisting the aid of local experts.

 

Thank you, Jeff.  We wish for a prosperous New Year — and a Loop That Is Closed for you and CWD (and the rest of us) — in 2009!

 

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This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.