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Manny Hernandez receiving award

Manny Hernandez is the 2019 recipient of the Living with Diabetes IDF award.  He received the award and spoke on Thursday, December 7 at the BEXCO Convention Centre in Busan, Korea where the IDF Congress 2019 was held.

Manny, who has lived with diabetes since 2002, is internationally known as a recognized diabetes advocate.  Between 2007 and 2015, he co-founded the Diabetes Hands Foundation (DHF), a nonprofit community developed for people with diabetes. Under his leadership, DHF became a global leader in diabetes social media, and an influential group in diabetes advocacy. Since 2015, Manny has held a variety of roles at Livongo, where he is currently leading efforts tied to community. We met Manny so he could share his beginnings and explain how his passion for diabetes advocacy all started.

What did you think when IDF contacted you and said, we want to give you the “Living with diabetes award”?

I was very humbled. I was not expecting it. I mean, there’s, you know, any number of amazing people that deserve it.

Most people know you as the heart of Diabetes Hands Foundation and TuDiabetes.  Can you talk about that?

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was really alone.  I knew no one with my condition so I was isolated. My wife Andreina and I decided to create something. We thought that it would be great to have a bilingual community for diabetes, but it didn’t work out that way. Tudiabetes was created as an English only community and we created another community completely separate called EsTuDiabetes, which is entirely in Spanish. The two co-existed but were separate groups. Each community was developed for anyone, anywhere, who lived with any type of diabetes.

What were the DHF’s early days like and how did everything evolve?

At first the community skewed heavily towards people with type 1 diabetes, no small part because that was the population that was out there looking for support resources. By the time I left the foundation, I think we had something like 60 or 70 percent members who lived with type 2 diabetes.

TuDiabetes and EstuDiabetes became a place that served as a resource for people. This was very exciting because that was the intention. People began to talk about diabetes and participate in conversations about their health and their emotions, and life with a very serious condition. We had members but we also had people who stopped by to get information, and that was a huge part of the community.

People began to talk about diabetes and participate in conversations about their health and their emotions, and life with a very serious condition.

What happened in 2017?

Nearly 10 years to the day we started Diabetes Hands Foundation, we hit a difficult point in terms of financials and fundraising. In early 2017 we saw some signs that things were not going well. The next step became trying to protect and preserve as much of the programs as possible. We made the decision to try and find a proper home for them and that new home became Beyond Type 1. They took over the communities and absorbed our employees. I never wanted to dissolve the foundation. The outcome is a really good story. Beyond Type 1 is an amazing group and we’re aligned in so many ways. Today, the communities are thriving.

Speaking of today, what do you think are the big issues for diabetes?

Well, I think the issues are different based on the region. Insulin pricing is the top issue right now on the table in the U.S. but there are other challenges, too. I’m worried about the continuation of the Affordable Care Act, for example, which if cancelled would be like going back to the Dark Ages.  Doing so would be tragic for millions of people with diabetes.  Many people would lose coverage because of the protections for pre-existing conditions. I sense this trend that there’s so much undoing of progress. I worry that a lot of progress that has been made in diabetes care will be lost.

All of this concerns me.  People feel understandably upset, tired with things, nothing’s working for them. You know, starting to consider alternatives and resort to very drastic measures that ultimately undermine the progress that has been made right now.

What are you going to discuss for your award today?

Funny enough, months ago, I decided along with Renza Scibilia that I would use community as a theme for my IDF award lecture. It is a topic that’s very close to my heart, and I feel very passionate about it – but it’s not what I have been doing for quite some time. Ironically, I was recently given a new role at Livongo to be head of community. It’s like I have come full circle.

Congratulations Manny, and thank you.

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