Most diabetes advocates are inspired by their involvement in the diabetes community, and many young adults get their start in the diabetes community through amazing support organizations like the College Diabetes Network.
The College Diabetes Network, or CDN, was formed in 2009 by Christina Roth. She, like many people with type one diabetes, found the transition into independent college life difficult, and she wanted a group of people with whom she could discuss her challenges and victories. After having trouble promoting the group on her campus, she started the CDN website, which now connects college students across the country.
I talked with Dan Browne, a program coordinator with CDN. He said “[CDN] is a nonprofit organization organization whose mission is singularly focused on providing young adults with T1D the peer connections they value, and expert resources they need, to successfully manage the challenging transition to independence at college and beyond.
I first got involved with CDN as a senior in college when I started a Chapter on my own campus. After graduation, I was offered an internship position at the CDN headquarters which grew into a full-time position overseeing the Chapter Network and helping students across the country start and lead Chapters.”
Browne explained the purpose of CDN as an organization that “provides programs that empowers students and young professionals to thrive with diabetes. Our largest program is our Chapter Network – a web of over 115 student-run groups on college campuses across the country, growing all the time. Peer support is invaluable in an environment where so many other variables are changing and students are often tasked with managing their disease independently for the first time.”
CDN Provides Tools and Resources
CDN doesn’t just provide a network for young people with diabetes to connect. They also provide tools, like blog posts, an e-newsletter, and information on preparing for college, dealing with diabetes in college, and transitioning into the workplace. “We also publish informational resources for students, their parents, and clinicians and campus professionals who work with young adults with type 1 diabetes. These resources include our Off to College booklets for students and parents getting ready for the transition from home to campus and our newest resource for those diagnosed with type one as a young adult. Stay tuned for an exciting new resource coming this spring!” Additionally, CDN has what they call an “ecosystem” support network that targets parents and other family members, clinicians, campus administrators and staff, friends, and roommates of people with diabetes.
Training a New Generation of Advocates
DPAC’s favorite part of the website (not surprisingly!) is the Diabetes 24/7 section on political advocacy for people with diabetes. Browne talked about how members of CDN advocate for themselves and on a bigger, community level: “At the core of every CDN Chapter is the idea that people with diabetes are better off together than alone. Our potential to drive change and make the world a better place for people with diabetes is only limited by our ability to organize and act together.
All of our Chapter Leaders are community organizers who bring people affected by diabetes on their campus together so that they can have a collective voice. We see Chapters all the time using their platform to advocate for themselves on Campus in ways big and small, from requesting sharps containers in restrooms to educating peers and professors about how they can be supportive.
Our new Political Advocacy Guide encourages Chapters to take it to the next level and think beyond their campuses to their cities, states, and country.” CDN does a great job breaking down the steps to political advocacy in their guide. The guide includes information on finding your passion and people who share it, building an action plan, and ways to take action, like contacting representatives and going to town halls. Because DPAC collaborated with CDN when creating the Political Advocacy Guide, it meshes well with the information we provide here on our blog and website.
CDN Has Something for Everyone
Browne noted that different parts of CDN were important to people in different stages of life. “All of our programs work together to support T1D students and their network, so I would say they are all important.
For the student choosing a college, the Off to College booklets could be most important, for a student living on a campus with a CDN Chapter, the support they receive from their peers could be most important, and for the 22 year old just diagnosed with type one, our You’ve Got This guide could be most important.
We have resources for each stage of this time of life, so students can access what is relevant for them.” Browne also pointed out that CDN was the first organization to bring attention to young people’s issues within the diabetes community: “Of all our accomplishments, I would say bringing the young adult voice to the diabetes sector is the most important. Before CDN, there were no resources for this group and no one was considering what a challenge this time of life was for so many. Now this is a common topic of discussion among clinical providers, pharmaceutical and device companies, and other diabetes organizations!”
Getting Involved with CDN
It’s very easy to become involved with CDN. “Anybody can visit collegediabetesnetwork.org for access to all of our informational resources, all of which are absolutely free. If a student wants to start a Chapter on their college campus, or connect with an existing Chapter, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started or fill out the Start a Chapter form on our website,” says Browne.
Most everyone knows a young person who is off to college soon, is in college now, or has just entered the workforce. CDN is serving the next generation of diabetes advocates, so be sure to visit their site and support their programs!
Disclosure: Christina Roth serves on the Board of Directors for DPAC.