Diabetes in Real Life

Nonprofit advocacy group empowers women with diabetes

In this issue, Susan Weiner, MS, RDN, CDE, FAADE, talks with Anna Norton, MS, who is CEO of DiabetesSisters, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the health and quality of life of women with all types of diabetes, including prediabetes. DiabetesSisters offers online and in-person support to more than 12,000 women annually and has 500,000 visitors to its website, DiabetesSisters.org. The organization has resources available to diabetes educators about topics such as body image and eating disorders, menopause, bridging the gap between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, healthy pregnancy and mental health.

What makes DiabetesSisters stand out from other diabetes-related organizations?

Susan Weiner

Norton: DiabetesSisters is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and educating women living with and at risk for diabetes. We embrace women of all ages, with all kinds of diabetes, and provide them with tools to become more empowered with regard to their health care. Our organization started as a small website in 2008 and has since grown to a thriving force with online and in-person programs. Our website receives nearly half a million visitors annually. It houses a women’s forum with hundreds of archived pages; showcases expert articles on nutrition, exercise and social-emotional well-being; features blogs written by women living with diabetes; hosts webinars; and archives our monthly e-newsletter, which is distributed to over 12,000 members. In-person, we offer our signature PODS (Part of DiabetesSisters) Meetup program, monthly meetings in 18 states and 22 locations, which are peer-led and offer education and support. We also host a Leadership Institute to train our key volunteers (PODS Leaders) and a Weekend for Women conference that brings women together from the United States and Canada to learn more about diabetes, offers networking opportunities and provides social and emotional support.

What initiatives has the organization taken to focus on the specific needs of women living with diabetes?

Norton: DiabetesSisters has made grand efforts to go back into communities and bring programs and services to women. We launched our Minority Initiative, focused on African-American and Hispanic women, and have made progress in educating women through health ministries and community organizations. Women have expressed the need for more diabetes education, information on treatment options, and better ways to manage diabetes in the household. We are making strides in providing that — and more — focusing on a continuation of education and support that in turn allows women to better manage their health, the health of their family, their careers and a multitude of other areas.

How do you see the organization growing in 2018 and beyond?

Norton: Since our founding, we have seen tremendous growth in our organization, but there are always more women to reach. Our Life Class webinar series, now in its third year, provides free 30-minute webinars on a variety of topics related to diabetes, such as kidney disease, diabetes burnout, organizational skills and tips for better diabetes management. We will continue to grow this program, asking our members about topics they wish to discuss and working with experts to deliver the information.

We continue to grow our PODS Meetup program, which focuses on monthly meetings led by women also living with diabetes. This peer support system grows annually and offers a safe, nonjudgment environment for women to discuss their successes and challenges when it comes to diabetes. The program also offers an educational component, with focuses on living well with diabetes and learning more about how to prepare for diabetes emergencies, set goals and effectively communicate with health care providers. We have a passionate and informed volunteer corps who help lead these monthly discussions, recruit women to participate, and find innovate ways to engage their groups with practical pieces in the curriculum. Our PODS Meetup groups continue to meet for physical activity, tour supermarkets to learn how to read nutritional labels and gather socially. We continue to focus on the whole woman living with diabetes, thriving in life.

Tell me more about special partnerships in which you are engaged.

Norton: We are fortunate to partner with professional organizations to create materials to better engage health care providers and patients. We collaborated with the Society for Women’s Health Research to develop 10 Relevant Health Topics for Women Living with Diabetes, a collection of health essays written by experts. Included are explanations about the connection between diabetes and heart disease, menopause, differences in diabetes between women and men, type 1 diabetes and pregnancy, and disparities among women of color and diabetes, among other subjects. This collaboration provides an array of topics that are important to the health of women living with diabetes.

Anna Norton

In the coming months, we will develop a second paper through a partnership with Johns Hopkins University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, focusing on relevant health topics from the patient perspective. Again, an important piece for health care providers to better understand what women are asking about when it comes to living healthily with diabetes.

We are also partnering with another diabetes-related nonprofit organization — the Diabetes Collective — and held our signature conference programs together in October. Together, the DiabetesSisters Weekend for Women Conference series and the Diabetes UnConference hosted a joint weekend of education and support for people living with diabetes. We designed a multitrack program with focuses on women, general education, unscripted conversations about living with diabetes, and a separate track for partners and caregivers (also known as “type 3’s”). This joint venture allowed us to further our reach, utilize our experts and panelists appropriately and serve those who look for avenue of education and support via in-person programming.

Disclosures: Norton reports she is CEO of DiabetesSisters. Weiner reports she is a clinical adviser to Livongo Health.

In this issue, Susan Weiner, MS, RDN, CDE, FAADE, talks with Anna Norton, MS, who is CEO of DiabetesSisters, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the health and quality of life of women with all types of diabetes, including prediabetes. DiabetesSisters offers online and in-person support to more than 12,000 women annually and has 500,000 visitors to its website, DiabetesSisters.org. The organization has resources available to diabetes educators about topics such as body image and eating disorders, menopause, bridging the gap between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, healthy pregnancy and mental health.

What makes DiabetesSisters stand out from other diabetes-related organizations?

Susan Weiner

Norton: DiabetesSisters is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and educating women living with and at risk for diabetes. We embrace women of all ages, with all kinds of diabetes, and provide them with tools to become more empowered with regard to their health care. Our organization started as a small website in 2008 and has since grown to a thriving force with online and in-person programs. Our website receives nearly half a million visitors annually. It houses a women’s forum with hundreds of archived pages; showcases expert articles on nutrition, exercise and social-emotional well-being; features blogs written by women living with diabetes; hosts webinars; and archives our monthly e-newsletter, which is distributed to over 12,000 members. In-person, we offer our signature PODS (Part of DiabetesSisters) Meetup program, monthly meetings in 18 states and 22 locations, which are peer-led and offer education and support. We also host a Leadership Institute to train our key volunteers (PODS Leaders) and a Weekend for Women conference that brings women together from the United States and Canada to learn more about diabetes, offers networking opportunities and provides social and emotional support.

What initiatives has the organization taken to focus on the specific needs of women living with diabetes?

Norton: DiabetesSisters has made grand efforts to go back into communities and bring programs and services to women. We launched our Minority Initiative, focused on African-American and Hispanic women, and have made progress in educating women through health ministries and community organizations. Women have expressed the need for more diabetes education, information on treatment options, and better ways to manage diabetes in the household. We are making strides in providing that — and more — focusing on a continuation of education and support that in turn allows women to better manage their health, the health of their family, their careers and a multitude of other areas.

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How do you see the organization growing in 2018 and beyond?

Norton: Since our founding, we have seen tremendous growth in our organization, but there are always more women to reach. Our Life Class webinar series, now in its third year, provides free 30-minute webinars on a variety of topics related to diabetes, such as kidney disease, diabetes burnout, organizational skills and tips for better diabetes management. We will continue to grow this program, asking our members about topics they wish to discuss and working with experts to deliver the information.

We continue to grow our PODS Meetup program, which focuses on monthly meetings led by women also living with diabetes. This peer support system grows annually and offers a safe, nonjudgment environment for women to discuss their successes and challenges when it comes to diabetes. The program also offers an educational component, with focuses on living well with diabetes and learning more about how to prepare for diabetes emergencies, set goals and effectively communicate with health care providers. We have a passionate and informed volunteer corps who help lead these monthly discussions, recruit women to participate, and find innovate ways to engage their groups with practical pieces in the curriculum. Our PODS Meetup groups continue to meet for physical activity, tour supermarkets to learn how to read nutritional labels and gather socially. We continue to focus on the whole woman living with diabetes, thriving in life.

Tell me more about special partnerships in which you are engaged.

Norton: We are fortunate to partner with professional organizations to create materials to better engage health care providers and patients. We collaborated with the Society for Women’s Health Research to develop 10 Relevant Health Topics for Women Living with Diabetes, a collection of health essays written by experts. Included are explanations about the connection between diabetes and heart disease, menopause, differences in diabetes between women and men, type 1 diabetes and pregnancy, and disparities among women of color and diabetes, among other subjects. This collaboration provides an array of topics that are important to the health of women living with diabetes.

Anna Norton

In the coming months, we will develop a second paper through a partnership with Johns Hopkins University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, focusing on relevant health topics from the patient perspective. Again, an important piece for health care providers to better understand what women are asking about when it comes to living healthily with diabetes.

We are also partnering with another diabetes-related nonprofit organization — the Diabetes Collective — and held our signature conference programs together in October. Together, the DiabetesSisters Weekend for Women Conference series and the Diabetes UnConference hosted a joint weekend of education and support for people living with diabetes. We designed a multitrack program with focuses on women, general education, unscripted conversations about living with diabetes, and a separate track for partners and caregivers (also known as “type 3’s”). This joint venture allowed us to further our reach, utilize our experts and panelists appropriately and serve those who look for avenue of education and support via in-person programming.

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Disclosures: Norton reports she is CEO of DiabetesSisters. Weiner reports she is a clinical adviser to Livongo Health.