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Healthline Connects
Healthline Connects

Interview with founder Manny Hernandez

The CDC estimates that almost 24 million people in the US have diabetes. The total costs to the US in terms of both medical care and disability are $174 billion. Millions have it, but according to Manny Hernandez, founder of the popular website , it is a "closet condition". I had the pleasure of interviewing Manny last week about the communities he created for people touched by diabetes. "In the early stage, people with diabetes don't look different. Some people with type 2 diabetes feel guilty - feel they have inflicted this on themselves. They may be in denial - "Oh I have just a touch of diabetes" - but their fasting blood sugar is 150. The fact is, one in four people walking around has diabetes. That means there is a good chance a lot of people you know have diabetes."

Hernandez was diagnosed with diabetes in 2002 - misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes when actually, he is a "LADA" or type 1.5. LADA is latent autoimmune diabetes in adults, a form of type 1 diabetes that is seen in adults over age 25 years. The oral medications he was initially treated with didn't work for him and a year later he was on insulin to control his blood sugars. In 2005 he started using an insulin pump and the following year went to his first insulin pumpers club. "That was an enlightening experience for me because I hadn't met so many people at different stages of their lives with diabetes before. It was great to be surrounded by groups of people I could relate to on this level. It was powerful to meet other people with diabetes."

"I had been in web product management for ten years and 2006 was when Myspace and Facebook were really catching on - fun tools for socialization. I was reading Thomas Friedman's
The World is Flat and started thinking about applying social networking to diabetes. I wanted to create a social network for people who were touched by diabetes. Because in my life, everyone around me was affected by my diabetes. My 5 year old son knows when we play together he has to be careful of my pump. My wife has been very supportive.

So in March 2007 we launched as the first social network for people with diabetes. First, some of the most prominent diabetes bloggers came on board and helped build the momentum. We had members join by word of mouth. Later, we found there were important language barriers for people who only spoke Spanish. So we launched a sister community in Spanish. Now we have 4000 members for and 1000 + members for We also have a presence on YouTube, MySpace and Facebook ,as a way to help get the word out about the communities.

Our goals are simple: 1. Help connect people with diabetes. 2. Raise diabetes awareness. The turning point for us was the
Word In Your Hand project we did for World Diabetes Day last year. LifeScan, the makers of the OneTouch glucose meters, licensed Word In Your Hand, allowing us to get my wife and myself started full time on the Diabetes Hands Foundation, a nonprofit we formed to help manage the communities and the diabetes awareness programs.

Our message for people touched by diabetes is 'You are not alone.' When you connect with others you get emotional support plus you get questions answered, something to get you through between your 15 minute office visits with your doctor every three months. You get trust. The future for is to continue to spread the word and grow our roots. We recently launched two more awareness programs - Drawing Diabetes - children in the community drew how diabetes affected their lives and the Diabetes Supplies Art Contest."

If your life has been touched by diabetes - join or follow
tudiabetes on twitter.

Thank you for use of photo by Kseniya.
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