Happy November everyone! It’s diabetes awareness month and we’re all ready to paint the world blue, educate and advocate – all to make this month count for people living with diabetes. Yes, diabetes sucks. But we have the medications and tools to live happy, fulfilled lives. Or do we? There is still so much injustice when it comes to the accessibility of healthcare. Many people across the globe, even in some of the richest countries of the world, are still struggling to access insulin. People are dying! One organisation that is working incredibly hard to bring about change is T1International. Personally, I am in awe of Elizabeth, the founder of this incredible organisation. What she has started just a few years ago is now a global network of passionate advocates who won’t stop fighting until universal healthcare is a reality. That’s why I’ve decided to donate 10% of all proceeds from my online shop to T1International – all through November 2019.
Founder Elizabeth Pfiester has been kind enough to let me interview her in order to share some more details on what T1International do and what we all can do to help!
Hi Elizabeth! You’re the founder of T1international. How did it all start and what is your main mission?
I started T1International because I was outraged when I learned that people all over the world are still struggling and dying because they cannot access or afford their basic care needs like insulin, supplies, healthcare, support and more. Having grown up in the USA with access to new technology, I was angry that my fellow people with type 1 diabetes weren’t getting the same access. In 2011 I moved to the the United Kingdom and experienced the National Healthcare System (NHS) where I didn’t have to pay huge amounts for my insulin and supplies, nor did I have to wrangle with insurance companies. I was amazed and grateful for the NHS and even more frustrated about the inequalities in access and cost of care worldwide. In 2013 I put my outrage into action and started collecting information on a blog, which was the basis for T1International. Six years later, T1International has contacts all over the world and is supporting patients to find their voice and use tools to advocate for their rights. We want to see a world where everyone with diabetes has everything they need to survive and achieve their dreams, and where patients are fully a part of policy-making.
Who are the other people behind T1International
There are so many amazing people who make T1International thrive. We are a two person team right now in that it’s just me and my wonderful colleague, Allison, who are paid to work on T1International. That being said, I have a brilliant board of trustees who work hard to ensure that the governance and operations are going in the right direction. They also get involved in specific projects and have a good overview of what the organization is doing to ensure we stay true to our mission. We also have many volunteers all over the world that allow us to do so much with so little and make a huge impact. You can see more at t1international.com/ourteam.
What are your biggest successes so far?
While we haven’t yet achieved universal insulin, supplies, and care for all, we are empowering people every day to fight for their rights, and we are seeing results. Laws have been changed, mindsets have been transformed, and lives have been saved. Patients are finding and using their voices, and there are few greater victories than that!
You’re working on an extremely complex issue. What are the main challenges you are facing?
You put it well. This issue is complex. It’s not as simple as handing out insulin and supplies and the job is done. Type 1 diabetes is a non-stop, chronic condition and we need insulin and supplies for the rest of our lives (unless a cure is found) so that means we need long-term solutions. We specialize in articulating complex issues in clear, digestible ways. This can sometimes be a challenge, and getting people to see that this is a long-game, not a short term win or easy fix, is not easy. There are a lot of levels of understanding to walk people through because type 1 diabetes is complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible!
Some of our big highlights include:
- Volunteers and advocates representing patients at the UN High Level Hearing on Universal Health Coverage
- Releasing our 2018 out of pocket cost data and report
- The T1International Caravan to Canada
- Holding our first ever #insulin4all Workshop and third annual event outside Eli Lilly
- T1International being featured on the Jonathan Van Ness podcast, Getting Curious
- Our upcoming Pamoja Advocacy training and World Diabetes Day event
We have a lot we want to achieve in 2020, including more advocacy training (in-person and online), establishing our US entity and hiring a few more people, building more Chapters in the USA and around the world, and continuing to build or movement and our organization to ensure we are sustainable.
How can people get involved? What kind of support do you need the most?
There are many ways to get involved. Visiting t1international.com/volunteer is the first way to see if there are any roles that fit you. Importantly, because we don’t accept funding from the pharmaceutical industry, donations from individuals really do matter. If you want to support the cause and are able to make a monthly donation by visiting t1international.com/donate, it will help us in our sustainability efforts and it will ensure that patients keep fighting and lasting change is made.
Thank you so much, Liz, for sharing your story. It’s amazing to see your passion translate into a global movement!
As people with diabetes, we NEED access to insulin and healthcare in order to survive. Mere geography, the country you are born in, should not determine whether we get to live or die. That’s why I believe that this issue is so important. And the work that T1International are doing is incredible. So please, if you can, make a donation today!
And if you’ve been thinking about getting some pretty new stickers for your devices, a cover for your omnipod, a chic diabetes awareness bracelet or some temporary tattoos – now is the time! because you will be supporting a fantastic organization! 10% of all proceeds from shop.pepmeup.org will be donated to T1International throughout November 2019! 💙