Mariana is a Mexican Diabetes Educator and a Licensed Psychologist. In 2008, Mariana started a blog where she shares her experiences and diabetes knowledge with others — dulcesitosparami.com — and she began being an active advocate through social media. She is considered a diabetes influencer in Latin America and has participated in several conferences, events, and TV shows dedicated to diabetes education in the last years. Mariana worked for the Mexican Diabetes Federation as Communications Manager, helping to build and empower the diabetes community in Mexico. She is currently Director of Emerging Markets for Beyond Type 1.
How has your diabetes journey led you to where you are today?
My name is Mariana and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 35 years ago. I was diagnosed in a country where, to this day, there is no access to basic tools like insulin and glucose meters for everyone. I was diagnosed in a country where the health system did not see me and did not include me in health programs — the same country where access to technology that could improve my lifestyle was limited and where diabetes education is not as accessible as in others.
Back in 2004, I found myself looking for information on insulin pumps. I was a privileged person who had access to the internet through my father’s work. I soon realized that neither those devices, nor the information I needed, existed in my own language. Months later, I came across the online diabetes community. I could not stop reading. I was an observer for a long time until I met others who also spoke my language. I was perhaps one of the first Spanish speakers on TuDiabetes and definitely one of the first on EsTuDiabetes when they built that community in Spanish.
In 2006, I helped create the first online community in my own country and coordinated the website and social networks for the Mexican Diabetes Federation. In 2009, I started my blog, inspired by other people speaking other languages whom I found online. Soon after, I was welcomed to a group of Latinx and Hispanic people from other countries where we did not feel alone and where I began learning about advocacy. I received my first Diabetes Educator Diploma in 2006 and have worked in the diabetes space ever since. Diabetes does define me. I can proudly accept that it sure does.
What have been some of your greatest challenges with diabetes technology?
Language is always a barrier when it comes to technology. I can read, translate, and have long conversations in English, but language is always a barrier. In my country, not all endocrinologists know diabetes technology, so that's another huge barrier. And lastly and sadly — cost. Diabetes in Mexico is a complete out-of-pocket disease.
There is no insurance that will cover pre-existing conditions — diabetes included — and our health system will only provide certain insulin brands. The system won't provide glucose meters or diabetes education, so technology is only for those who can afford it.
My family struggled to keep me alive. We were privileged but not everyone is, which made us become advocates — for ourselves and for others — as we could not just watch that struggle happening around us. My father worked hard so that I could have insulin and test strips. Whenever he was invited to attend a conference in another country around the world, his friends made sure to give him books, syringes, and magazines so that we could learn. They even sent sugar-free candies!
How important is access to your data and how does this affect your day-to-day?
Data is what keeps me going. My father is a physicist, so I knew right away that math and diabetes come together — that analysis, data, variables, and standard deviations are things I should know and become friends with.
Data analysis is part of my daily agenda. It's now become a hobby! Data helps me do my best. No, my glucose is not always perfect. But data helps me make daily immediate decisions — when to eat, how much to eat, how much to walk, swim, or bike ride with my son. It helps me to plan ahead — how much and how to modify basal rates, temporary rates, and other settings. It keeps me together and helps me have the kind of life I need to have — a perfectly happy and normal life.
Why did you choose Tidepool’s platform for your data management?
I needed a place where I could see all my data together. Yes, I know each device has its own platform, but when you're using different devices, you really need to see the complete picture. Also, having this information in a user-friendly environment is always amazing. I use graphs to see daily results, average results, and time in range, and I can see all that and also add notes in Tidepool.
How has Tidepool eased the burden in your diabetes data management or helped you connect with your endocrinologist? Which features do you find helpful?
Ah, my endocrinologist is amazing! She uses Tidepool to analyze my data with me. I must confess that during the current pandemic times, my virtual meetings with her have been more than amazing as we can both discuss data and trends on the same screen. My favorite feature is perhaps the ability to connect to Apple Health. I try to exercise frequently, so I find it really useful to see all that data in Tidepool as well.
Given your work in healthcare and your experience practicing medicine in multiple parts of the world, how do you think Tidepool can better address the data needs of people with diabetes in Latin America and beyond?
We need to have webinars in Spanish for diabetes educators, health professionals, and people with diabetes. We've tried to do this at Beyond Type 1, but we've done so informally. As this is something Tidepool has done successfully in English, we may be able to work as a team and serve more people in other languages (Spanish included, of course).
There is a very small group of Latinx and Hispanic healthcare providers using Tidepool’s platform and tool nowadays, but a big group of people with diabetes. We need to teach and show this amazing tool to specialists, diabetes educators, nutritionists, and the Latin American diabetes community at large. These healthcare providers would all be interested (me included!) to help more people with diabetes use Tidepool’s tool in better ways.