The Diabetes Social Media (DSMA) Blog Carnival topic for the month of February asks us to explore the concept of "advocacy."

In our diabetes community, the word gets tossed around a lot. What does it mean? Is blogging, attending conferences, or getting a lot of DSMALogoFacebook likes in itself advocacy?

If you go by the dictionary, an "advocate" is simply someone who speaks up in support of a person, cause, or particular issue:

 

defintiion of advocate

Innovation 2015

We at the 'Mine define ourselves as advocates, in particular in the area of helping to accelerate innovations in tools and care to improve life with this, ahem... burdensome ... condition. We do this by creating programs and hosting our own Diabetes Innovation Summit and Diabetes Data ExChange events to foster interactions between engaged patients, innovators and the decision-makers who determine our care options.

Meanwhile, last night I was fortunate to be invited to speak at a local D-networking group here in the San Francisco Bay Area called Carb DM. Really, when I think of advocacy, I look to the woman who founded this organization, Tamar Sofer-Geri. She's a working D-Mom who put hours upon hours of her after-work personal time into creating an amazing network of local support chapters that host dozens of events to connect and inform people about diabetes. Tamar rocks!

But what the 'Mine and Tamar's group do are only two flavors of advocacy. And there are so many flavors... more than 31, I assure you!

What I said in my talk last night about advocacy is this:

* every person sitting in that room, who came out on a weeknight to listen to a talk about D-innovation and social media is an advocate right there!

* everyone who writes a blog, is active on a patient networking site, seeks others out on Twitter, and/or connects locally offline is an advocate too

* anyone who cares enough to pay attention to what's happening in the D-world, and reaches out to others also effected, in some way, is an advocate of the most important kind! A peer-advocate, who sets the baseline of "you are not alone in this struggle"...

* for those who decide to make advocacy a major focus, everyone brings their own interests and skills to the table: athletes create amazing sports groups; artists establish cause-related Art Days; moms organize social and educational groups, and writers like us use our journalism skills to help keep the community informed and act as "consumer watchdogs" of sorts for patients.

It's ALL good stuff.

We agree with D-advocate friend Allison, a former colleague here at the 'Mine, who writes: "Diabetes Advocacy doesn't have to be flashy." It doesn't have to be about creating new initiatives or programs, engaging the FDA or attending big diabetes conferences. If none of those are your thing, do not give up. Your voice matters!

And we agree with our friend Stephen, a D-blogger at Happy Medium, who states:

"Advocates are those who possess the empathy to identify with a need, and the resilience to do what they can to eliminate the need. They further the issue they're fighting for, and they support and empower others who are doing the same. They are not afraid to do something that will help, no matter how small or big."

The way I personally see it, simply sharing your story and connecting with someone else living with this illness may be the purest form of patient advocacy -- in the sense that we were all so isolated in the past. "The bad old days" of living with diabetes or any other serious health condition had everything to do with a complete lack of community / support. Thank goodness we live in an era of new awakening when it comes to that!

We are so honored to be part of an advocacy community of people who do wonderful big things -- beware_of_advocate_bumper_bumper_stickerlike the Big Blue Test, You Can Do This, and Spare A Rose initiatives -- and also beautiful small things, like friends and family members pitching in to get a small boy with diabetes a very special teddy bear.

In case you need some help getting started, check out this easy six-step guide to advocacy from the ingenious eHow website -- although minus the bumper stickers, perhaps.

 

{This is our February entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival. If you'd like to participate too, you can get all of the information here}

 
Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

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.