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It takes a Tribe: A new model of type 1 diabetes care in Australia

The Type 1 Diabetes Family Centre in Perth, Western Australia is breaking new ground in diabetes care.

With a focus on building community, peer-led information exchange, creative health programs, and social support, the Family Centre does diabetes differently and represents a new model of care for people with type 1 diabetes.

A holistic care facility

Opened in 2015, the Family Centre facility was built by a team personally impacted by type 1 diabetes and motivated to change diabetes care in Australia by prioritizing connection and community. Driven by devastating statistics – only 27% of children and 20% of young adults in Australia reach HbA1c targets and the high rates of depression, anxiety and diabetes distress in the type 1 population – the Family Centre team saw a community in need of much more than medical care.  Alongside clinic care, the Family Centre also supports families and individuals holistically, honoring their stories, connecting them up, and providing opportunities designed to help people with type 1 to support, motivate, inform and inspire each other.

Diabetic community-based care

The Family Centre team believes that diabetes care should take place in community settings. The Centre offers diabetes education, dietetics, and clinical psychology services alongside HbA1c monitoring in a facility away from the hospital that feels more like a home than a clinic, with a large café-style kitchen, family lounge, adolescent zone, and playground. Creative programs support patients to live their best lives with type 1. These programs include:

The Family Centre strives to be a judgment-free zone, and patients are reassured that their HbA1c is just data to inform their next management decisions.  Central to the Family Centre’s work is the belief that ‘True patient-centered care honors individual goals and needs’ says Centre CEO Bec Johnson.

Connection and community

Clinical care is essential, but the community is truly vital to the Family Centre’s mission. Type 1 diabetes can be profoundly isolating, and the Family Centre aspires to be the type 1 hub for Western Australia – a meeting place offering an action-packed calendar of camps, workshops and community events, alongside two dynamic online communities for both parents and adults living with type 1.

The Family Centre’s online communities are carefully curated and moderated by the team to be safe, uplifting and supportive.  These communities have hundreds of engagements each day and were recently recognized by Facebook as one of the top 100 examples of community-building in the world.  Bec Johnson, who was named a Facebook Community Leadership Fellow for her work connecting the type 1 tribe of Western Australia says ‘Online communities are critical to health information exchange and social support, and I believe they must be integrated into current models of care to ensure they remain relevant and effective.’

Mindset and mental wellness

The Family Centre considers self-care, exercise, peer support, good nutrition, and skillful and agile diabetes management to be the five pillars of staying mentally and physically well with diabetes. The mental burden of managing a complex and unrelenting chronic disease is given priority. The Centre’s psychologist offers targeted support alongside the Centre’s prevention initiatives which include mindset and mental wellness workshops, training in diabetes etiquette and mental health first-aid for support people, and motivational speakers who inspire PWDs to dream big and live without limits. The team at the Centre believes that supporting people to stay motivated to manage diabetes each day is integral to effective diabetes services.

We have it – we know it

The Family Centre’s service is designed by people with type 1, based on the belief that there should be ‘nothing about us without us’. Most of the members of the team at the Family Centre are personally impacted by type 1 diabetes – they live with it, parent children with it, or care about siblings with it. This deep connection to the lived experience of type 1 diabetes not only drives commitment to the Family Centre’s cause but also gives the team integrity, extraordinary empathy and a flair for designing programs that genuinely meet needs. The need for people with diabetes to work in diabetes organizations has been discussed for many years – the Family Centre is putting it into action.

A new model of Diabetes care for America?

The Family Centre has disrupted diabetes care in Australia.  It recently won the Outstanding Charity Award at the Australian Charity Awards and the Credentialled Diabetes Educator of the Year Award for 2018.

We believe that the Family Centre represents a sustainable, holistic model of care that has global applications. It represents what can be done by thinking outside the medical model, enabling people with type 1 to co-create services, and helping the community support itself by creating opportunities to connect.

Explore more at www.type1familycentre.org.au

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