Diabetes Forecast

Diabetes Expos Offer Hands-on Experience

Volunteers and visitors get busy at the 2011 Minneapolis EXPO.

Endocrinologist Elizabeth "Betsy" Seaquist, MD, receives plenty of questions about managing diabetes. But she gets many, many more, she says, at American Diabetes Association EXPO® events. Seaquist, who holds the Pennock Family Endowed Chair in Diabetes Research at the University of Minnesota and is a former co-chair of the Minneapolis EXPO, says the free health fair helps serve people with diabetes from all walks of life, as well as their caretakers and families.

EXPOs, held annually across the country, include cooking demonstrations, diabetes product and service exhibitions, and lectures by and discussions with leading diabetes experts from a variety of fields. The daylong event is an opportunity for people with diabetes to get free expert advice, without the time limits or cost of a doctor's office visit. That's why Seaquist, the ADA's vice president for medicine and science, believes people are comfortable seeking health information.

"Patients ask questions at EXPO that they wouldn't really ask their educator or physician, and that's great," she says. "Nobody wants their doctor to think that they don't know something. Then they go to EXPO . . . and they're amazed. It's a different way of getting information."

Along with top-notch info, the events offer hands-on opportunities to learn about food—what Seaquist calls "the biggest problem" for many newly diagnosed individuals. A mock grocery store helps people learn to count carbohydrate grams, while other booths display the sugar content of various beverages, such as lattes or sweetened iced tea. This can be an easier way to learn than reading from a chart in a doctor's office. "It's an active learning, not passive learning," Seaquist says. There are plenty of "aha moments" as visitors experience EXPO offerings and take time to investigate their interests.

Steve Shaffer, 49, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., first attended a Diabetes EXPO about three years ago. At the Denver EXPO, he says, he was exposed to many opportunities he would never have known about if he hadn't attended. Now, he's been the top fund-raiser for Tour de Cure® in Colorado for three years running, and he volunteers at the EXPO's Tour booth.

"I'd highly recommend it, just because there's exposure to many more things than you get from just seeing your health care provider," says Shaffer, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1978. "It's exposed me to the community; that was one of the big takeaways for me." He says the EXPO provides a vast array of knowledge, better understanding, and exposure to the newest diabetes management technology. "It's also very well organized and gives you a much broader spectrum than what you get from your everyday treatment."



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