MISSION AND HISTORY
The Malta Diabetes Association or L-Ghaqda Maltija kontra d-Dijabete was founded by Mr. Tancred Zammit in 1988 after his teenage daughter was diagnosed with diabetes. He felt the need to establish an organization where people with diabetes could meet and discuss their condition, problems and receive information regarding diabetes.
The association is a voluntary non-profit making entity with the current committee being composed of parents of children with diabetes, persons with diabetes and paramedics. The association has continued and expanded on the work started by Mr. Zammit, by emphasing the importance of education in order to empower its members to deal with their day to day management and problems.
Monthly talks are organized for its members and the general public on specific topics related to diabetes and complications arising from uncontrolled diabetes. The talks are delivered by specialist on the topic chosen with ample time being dedicated to questions and interaction by those present – so that the audience can benefit from how others tackle day to day problems.
In later years, the need was felt to target specific groups so a separate group of lectures and meetings was organized for parents of children with diabetes. The problems encountered in this sector are very specific and the association has often been asked to intervene with problems relating to schools and other social institutions.
One of the main activities of the association is the Annual Summer Camp for Children with Diabetes. The aim of the summer camp is to help children with diabetes feel more comfortable with their condition , share experiences with others of their own age and condition and learn how to deal with hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, ketones, and how to self inject. The importance of monitoring before and after activities are very often taken for granted. The camp offers its participants hands on experience in an informal atmosphere which is far more effective.
The association also organizes Free Blood Glucose monitoring to mark World Diabetes Day. As the prevelance of diabetes is very high in the Maltese island, it is importance to stress the need of screening especially those who have a higher tendency due to family history.
The association keeps in touch with its members with a monthly circular giving details of the activities to be held, a bi-monthly leaflet and a yearly magazine.
In June 2009 the need was felt to target the youth section within the Diabetes Assoction. This gave rise to DAISY (Diabetes Association in Support of Youth), wherein topics of particular interest to that age group are discussed in more detail. The DAISY group also organises a number of physical activities mainly football as a social activity and a means of underlying the importance of exercise.
The media plays an important role in helping us deliver our message. Through television, radio and newspapers, we re able to enter into people’s homes and pass on the message that diabetes is a condition which if tackled in time can be controlled and the patient can live a normal hassle free life. However if taken lightly or unattended the complications arising from diabetes can be life threatening.
In these past years the association has been in lengthy discussions with the Department of Health in order to keep abreast with the new and improved treatments. We will keep on with our efforts to ensure that the new medication will be available to more patients and further improvements in treatment will be introduced in the list of free medication. Investment today will reap great benefits in the future by ensuring that persons with diabetes can achieve better control of their blood sugar thereby reducing the risk of complications.
The association also intervenes in situations of discrimination on the basis of the individual’s medical condition. We have had various complaints by parents of children with diabetes who are being discriminated against in schools or in social clubs. In some cases our intervention has proved successful and we were able to solve the problem to everyone’s satisfaction. However, we are still a long way off before all the problems faced by persons with diabetes in their place of work, school or social environment can be eliminated. Health education or knowledge is the only solution to solve the problems encountered. Our visit to schools and local councils have shown the lack of knowledge on the condition and students were staggered to learn that children of their own age have to have 2 – 4 insulin shots daily
The Malta Diabetes Association has still a lot of challenges to face. The only problem is that the number of persons willing to offer their services is limited. Our only hope is that the younger generation will continue in our footsteps and keep up the work we have tried to cover.
Anna Zammit McKeon
Maltese Diabetes Association
ANNA ZAMMIT McKEON
DAISY - CO-FOUNDER
COMMITTEE MEMBERDAISY - COORDINATOR
DAISY - PROMOTER