Taboo Topics: How Insulet Is Raising Health Care Providers’ Awareness to Open the Dialog With You

In mid-2015 at the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE)’s annual conference, Insulet held the first Sex, Insulin, and Rock ‘N’ Roll live forum. No joke!

You may wonder why in the world Insulet would open this Pandora’s box. Pure and simple, Insulet wants to help healthcare providers (HCPs) understand the need to open communication channels with people with diabetes (PWD)  to make often difficult conversations just a bit easier. Open communication can help PWD feel more comfortable asking questions and sharing personal information about tough or taboo quality of life topics like the ins and outs of sexual function and enjoyment, body image, dating, alcohol and, yes, the list goes on.

Since the kick-off event in San Diego, these lively, heartfelt and laughter-filled forums have been held at diabetes HCP meetings around the country. The panelists, like the ones you’ll meet here, are PWD. Some are both PWD and HCPs.

Let’s get a sneak peak of how a few of the Sex, Insulin, Rock ‘N Roll panelists feel their participation has impacted them and their diabetes care, how their participation is making a difference for PWD collectively and how they hope these forums will change how HCP interact with the PWD they care for. We thank them for sharing!

When asked how participation in this extremely open forum has impacted them and their diabetes care, panelists were candid.

“I’ve discovered there are many things I’m not comfortable revealing about myself. Participation has challenged me to be more honest about my own life, when my natural instinct as a comedian, is to be the goof,” said Turner.

Several panelists were empowered by the golden opportunity to open up about these, “scary subjects,” as Johnson calls them. Echoing the sentiments of fellow panelists, he said “Opening up in a safe environment like this about these topics, for which there’s an incredible shortage of information, is desperately needed. It makes us feel more normal and stay safer.”

As most PWD know well, your HCP visits are often squarely focused on glucose data, medication and pump setting adjustments. Yet, as Simos, a PWD and HCP, says, “These topics are critical to living a rewarding life.”   

Several panelists noted that by displaying the courage to discuss these topics in this forum, they hope fellow PWD will be more honest with their HCP.

“We hope we’re giving HCPs the courage to raise and talk about taboo topics with PWD,” says Turner.

Aprigliano shared, “I've witnessed epiphanies happening during the panels!  HCPs in the audience have realized that they must ask these critical questions." 

It’s clear the value of each participant’s involvement goes well beyond the insights they provide. They’re gaining insights, too.

“I’ve thought that I was ‘doing diabetes wrong’ ̶  that others’ glucose results were perfect and that they could comfortably cover any topic with their HCPs. Hearing that’s far from reality has been liberating for me,” offers Aprigliano.

The panel discussions delve into how the participant’s diabetes impacts other areas of their life. “One of the most revealing topics to me has been how my diabetes can challenge significant others, and how their good intentions can cause resentment and compound our frustrations with diabetes,” adds Simos.   

The panelists concur, Insulet is helping PWD and HCPs tackle critical yet often taboo topics by creating these forums.

“For Insulet to recognize this and facilitate ways to make sensitive conversations easier (through laughter and shared experiences, no less!) is a gift to our diabetes community,” says Aprigliano.

 Written by Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM