Just because the American Diabetes Association has the word American in its name, doesn't mean the organization's reach doesn't extend outside the U.S.
The ADA is going more global than ever now by holding its first-ever Middle East Congress in Dubai. The inaugural summit being held tomorrow (Tuesday) through Thursday this week is expected to bring in 1,400 to 2,000 people for what ADA organizers are calling a "mini Scientific Sessions" (the ADA's huge annual meeting stateside) that's being held on-site in a part of the world strongly affected by this disease.
"The current and future burden of diabetes in the Middle East is great, and key government and institutional leaders are seeking ways to address the problem," said Linda Cann, the ADA's vice president for professional education, conventions and international affairs. "One way is to ensure that their physicians, nurses and other health care professionals are up-to-date on the latest prevention, treatment and management strategies. That's where we come in."
Indeed, global figures show that almost 33 million people in the Middle East are living with diabetes, or about 9.1% of the total population — mostly type 2, of course. This region is expected to be one of the top 10 spots in diabetes prevalence in the coming decades. We've gotten a glimpse into life with diabetes in this part of the world here at the 'Mine through our global diabetes series, featuring guest posts from fellow PWDs in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
ADA officials say that during the past five years, they've received numerous requests from Middle East organizations and institutions asking for scientific and clinical education programs for health care professionals. Since ADA is highly regarded as a resource for authoritative and objective D-information, Cann says the global call for ADA input is strong.
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Still, we were surprised to learn that ADA is holding its own conference here, since the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) generally handles global needs, and even held the 2011 World Diabetes Congress in Dubai. Not to mention the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD)...
Planning for this Dubai event began in the third quarter of 2011, she said, and they've marketed this to ADA members without any negative feedback. This educational meeting is part of a continued collaboration between the ADA and the U.S.-based Education Development Center (EDC) that's a global non-profit and runs its own Center for Diabetes Education. The event's also co-hosted by the Emirates Diabetes Society and is sponsored by the Dubai Health Authority and Government of Dubai.
From the conference website:
"The overarching goal of the Congress is to support the commitment of health care professionals in the Middle East in the fight against diabetes and their efforts on behalf of people with diabetes and their families."
The IDF and EASD both told us that they're aware of the ADA event, but confirmed they aren't participating or involved in any way and no one from the IDF is attending. They both declined to offer any further comment on the ADA's newest gathering.
This Middle East Congress is different from what the IDF and others do, according to Cann. She says the IDF World Diabetes Congress (next planned for Melbourne, Australia, in December 2013) offers education for non-HCPs and is targeted toward the IDF member associations with information on association management, fundraising and public awareness — while the ADA is focused on clinical and scientific education for HCPs.
So the "mini Scientific Sessions" label refers to providing HCP-specific information to those in the Middle East who couldn't travel to the U.S. for the big Scientific Sessions event held in Philadelphia in June, Cann said.
ADA figures show that 352 people from the Middle East region did attended, however — 2.5% of the total registration. That was just a small portion of the total number of non-U.S. attendees, though, which made up about 57% of the nearly 14,111 professionals attending (though nearly 18,000 people including exhibitors, volunteers and staff were there).
At the Dubai event, several thousand HCPs are expected, along with 32 companies exhibiting at a total 80 booths. By comparison, the ADA Scientific Sessions had 100+ companies with more than 800 booths. And the IDF's World Diabetes Congress brings in about 15,000 people from across the globe. Last month, the Global D-Summit at Ohio State University offered information on various parts of the world including the Middle East and had about 400 people attending.
While this is a big deal for HCPs in the Middle East, don't expect too much buzz just yet: there's not a lot of patient involvement or live-event coverage planned. Cann says there will be no live or archived webcast nor any live blogging or Twitter hashtag set up allowing people to follow along. Boo... So, any media attending and writing about the event may be the only peek inside this Middle East conference.
No decision's been made on whether this Middle East Congress will happen again; Cann said the ADA will assess this year's event and make that decision down the road.
While on one level, it seems commendable that the ADA is taking its efforts globally, we're a little confused by this effort; the need for improved diabetes care in America is still so great, why exactly is the ADA using precious resources to offer training programs overseas? And if they insist, then why not include the IDF and EASD, which have much more experience on global issues? It just seems odd that ADA wouldn't partner with those orgs that already have traction with exact population they're targeting...
And really, if the ADA wanted to focus more on other parts of the world, you'd think they might have a better response toward recognizing and promoting the universal Blue Circle symbol of diabetes that aims to raise awareness throughout the world — which they have for all intents and purposes ignored.
What do you all think?