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Focus on Best Practices. What exactly does that mean? To the 230 people gathered for this 'bring in the new year' CWD conference at the Marriott Marco Island Resort on January 1-4, it meant a nearly perfect combination of education, discussion, exercise, and relaxation in an idyllic setting, with carb counts and portion sizes on every food item, and great weather to boot.

The concept of Best Practices was addressed from a variety of perspectives. In the opening conference keynote, endocrinologist Larry Deeb discussed what 'best practices' means to him as he daily works with hundreds of families and children with type 1 in his own medical practice in Florida. He contrasted those concepts with best practices that he has experienced in his work with the International Diabetes Federation and families in other countries that do not have ready access to the types of tools that our families use for everyday management in the U.S.

Conference participants learned that best practices encompasses many things. It refers to the tools and technology that a family utilizes in the management of diabetes, and it also refers to other aspects of lifestyle such as exercise, attitude, and stress management. All of these areas were discussed during this conference. Dr. Henry Anhalt presented the most recent technology relating to insulin pumps and continuous glucose sensors, while Dr. Kim Kelly discussed the successful utilization of drugs other than insulin in diabetes management. Dr. Bob Bulgarelli led the group in exploration of stress management techniques, while triathlete Brian Foster and Team Type 1 Captain Joe Eldridge discussed the importance and impact of exercise in their own efforts to live well with type 1 diabetes. CWD dietitian Tricia Stewart and her husband (triathlete) Brian Foster also discussed with both parents and kids how healthy nutrition and daily exercise are an effective combination in living well and following best practices with type 1 diabetes.

Late last fall, psychologist Richard Rubin surveyed CWD families online, asking a variety of questions about how they viewed 'living with diabetes.' He questioned families about things they felt they did well (in life and in diabetes management); he asked about family dynamics; and he asked about concepts such as time management. He presented the survey results to our families in Marco, and the results were insightful and thought-provoking. It led to much discussion during and after the session; we are hoping that Dr. Rubin will run this survey periodically to compare results, identify trends, and perhaps help all of us deal in an increasingly positive manner with type 1 diabetes as we learn more about ourselves!

In yet another perspective about Living Well with Diabetes, Nicole Johnson (Miss America 1999, dLife co-host, diabetes advocate, writer, and mom) discussed her own successful strategies for living very positively with type 1 diabetes. She talked about the importance of having a diabetes buddy and pointed out that for many children and teenagers, this would most likely be a peer, not a parent. She also related that her own daily struggles with keeping blood glucose levels in range lead her on a constant quest to learn about new technology and tools. She shared her personal frustrations experienced by most everyone in the room with 'seemingly doing everything right, and still having blood glucose numbers that don't make sense.' And she reiterated how important it is that those experiences not deter a person from continuing to take excellent care of themselves and their diabetes. She also shared with the audience, half of whom were moms, that her own mother still calls her to ask, "What's your number?"

Exercise was an important component of the conference. Fitness Instructor Harold Sanco spent a good deal of time working directly with the children in their sessions this led the kids to a new exclamation: We've Been Harolded! It was hard work and lots of fun for all of the age groups! Exercise was also combined with discussion of 'how to feed the exercise in a healthy way.' Whether or not a person has type 1 diabetes, it is simply an important and healthy thing to do. Harold additionally spent time with the tweens, teens, and adults on the beach playing volleyball and working out in other ways. Harold has become an integral part of our CWD conferences, and he truly enjoys working with our CWD families.

The children's sessions were also a great mix of discussion, hands-on learning, and active play. We try very hard to achieve just the right mix of 'serious' and 'fun' in our educational programs and our kids' faculty and staff have become quite good at this. Many thanks to them for a job well done and lots of happy kids with plenty of new ideas. This year, the tween group had a very special treat a shelling excursion on the Calusa Spirit on Saturday morning! We hope to do that again next year.

On Saturday, the conference ended with a beach BBQ and an evening of dancing under the stars with DJ Gil and a couple hundred new good friends.

Same time, next year. December 31, 2009 January 2, 2010.

Many thanks are due to our wonderful partners and sponsors: Animas Corporation, Insulet Corporation, LifeScan, Maple Grove Farms, Medtronic Diabetes, Sanofi-Aventis, and Smiths Medical MD, Inc.. Many thanks also to Janel Johnson from Dex4 for providing glucose tabs and bursts for the duration of the conference and ensuring that no one was lacking in glucose supplies! We hope that you all had a lot of time to interact with our CWD parents and kids, exchange ideas, and experience our CWD community. We simply could not do this without your support.

As always, many thanks as well to our CWD staff and volunteers: Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, Marissa Hitchcock, Adam Town, Sam Billetdeaux, Kenny Rodenheiser, Kim Kelly, Melissa Ringley, Anne Sides, Brenda Hitchcock, Carolyn Billetdeaux, Natalie Bellini, Jim Vail, Nabil Elarbi, Neal Billetdeaux, Tom Karlya, Jeff and Brandy Schmidt, Julia and Ed Mattingly, Intissar ben Halim, Mary Babin, Kathryn Hitchcock, Erin Pettibone, and Lorraine Anderson. You are all worth your weight in gold.

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  Children with Diabetes: Focus on Best Practices

Ah yes ... this is why we leave the cold and snow and come to Marco Island in January
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Jim, Natalie, Bob and Henry chatted with the teens on Saturday afternoon
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The elementary kids listened intently to Joe Eldridge from Team Type 1
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With the sunlight fading on Saturday evening and the conference coming to a close, some CWD kids and young adults posed for one last sunset photo on the beach
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