By: Kristin Lund
Professor Peter Schwartz, MD, is a very busy man in the European diabetes community. He’s a professor of medicine, a scientist, and a medical doctor in the Division of Prevention and Care of Diabetes, Department of Medicine, University of Dresden. It’s a mystery how he finds enough hours in the day to do what he does. Diabetes Health recently interviewed him via email since he lives and works in Dresden, Germany.
DH: Professor Schwarz, please tell us about the European and world-wide diabetes projects you’re involved in.
IMAGE is a European project I am coordinating. (The acronym IMAGE stands for Development and Implementation of a European Guideline and Training Standards for Diabetes Prevention. It was submitted to the European Commission in June 2006 and was recommended for co-funding as part of the Public Health Programme (2003-2008) as one of the largest projects in the public health sector.)
We have four mandates.
1) We are working to develop a European guideline for the primary prevention of type 2 diabetes. We have 87 partners from 27 European countries, and we are very active in working to develop this guideline.
2) IMAGE also develops standards for training European prevention managers. A prevention manager establishes an intervention method to prevent diabetes in a regional setting.
3) We are working to develop a strategy for quality management in diabetes prevention. We believe that it is very helpful for healthcare professionals to measure the quality of the prevention program they work in. This will lead to an increase in the quality of preventive intervention.
4) We plan to present all the results via the Internet using an e-health portal.
Let me explain a little further. The IMAGE project is tasked with developing a European guideline for the prevention of diabetes. We will shortly publish an evidence-based guideline combined with a practice guideline for the primary prevention of diabetes. The evidence-based guideline will bring all the evidence and knowledge together. The practice guideline will be important for people who work every day in clinical and preventive work. The publication will show what must be done to prevent diabetes on a practical level. It’s worth mentioning again that we are also developing a curriculum for training prevention managers that will one day be accessible through an e-health portal. Together with the quality management strategy for diabetes prevention, this is what the IMAGE project stands for.
At the World Congress for Prevention of Diabetes and its Complications in April 2010, the results of the IMAGE project will be presented. Everyone who reads this interview is warmly invited to attend this meeting and to discuss with us the results of the project.
World Congress on the Prevention of Diabetes and its Complications
I am proud to be the president of the World Congress on the Prevention of Diabetes and its Complications that will take place in Dresden, Germany, between April 8 and 11, 2010. People from all over the world who are interested in diabetes prevention will come to Dresden to discuss how to integrate diabetes prevention into real world practice. I am very busy right now developing the program and organizing the Congress. We expect to have approximately 3000 attendees.
Diabetes Prevention Directory
The Diabetes Prevention Directory is an idea that came out of the other projects I am involved in. My dream is to bring people together world wide-people who are interested and active in the prevention of diabetes. It’s so important to exchange ideas, contacts, the experience of care, and the quality of practice. If we do this, we can increase our own quality of intervention, we can learn from each other, and we will be more successful as a group. This is the idea behind this Internet-based directory.
DH: What draws you to work in the diabetes community?
I am lucky to not suffer from diabetes. In my daily work, I am involved in treating and diagnosing people-mostly people with type 2. It’s always the same: If I see a patient, I think about what could have been done to prevent the situation the patient is in. If I prescribe a drug, I always think about how we might have prevented the situation. I am always thinking how diabetes can be prevented.
In the past, I was involved in studying the genetics of diabetes, and this also was an important driving force. If we discovered a genetic variant for diabetes, I thought we could use this to help people to get better treatment, a better diagnosis, or ultimately even prevent the disease.
When I start working in the morning, the first thing I do is read and answer my e-mails. Then I drive to the University of Dresden Hospital, and for about two hours I see patients with diabetes, patients who are at increased risk for diabetes, and people involved in clinical studies. Then I work in my office on developing strategies, on proposals, and I am also involved in political work. In the afternoon I see more patients, and often in the evening I have a meeting with people in the diabetes field. Due to the number of international projects I am involved in, I am often abroad in Europe, Asia, or North America.
DH: What kinds of diabetes information are you hoping to share via the Diabetes Prevention Directory?
Our idea is to use the directory to bring people together-people who are active and interested in world-wide diabetes prevention. Sharing ideas is integral to becoming more efficient in diabetes prevention. We need to share ideas about the barriers and difficulties in diabetes prevention and how to successfully deal with them. I think it is very important to use the directory for sharing all experiences, good and bad. This will make everyone more successful in implementing and performing diabetes prevention in their practice.
DH: Has it been difficult to get people to sign up for the directory? How is word being spread?
Our initial dream was to get 200 people signed up for the directory world-wide by the end of the year. More than 2000 people signed up in the first three months so we feel it is a great success. We are highly motivated to continue to invite more and more people to join the directory. Anyone who reads this interview is invited to join the network. It costs nothing and you can find out more about it on our website.
DH: Are there countries underserved or generally not heard from when it comes to diabetes prevention that you hope will be represented in the Directory?
We welcome people from all countries. If you look at the directory, there are many countries with numerous representatives in the network and there are other countries where only one or two persons are taking part in the network. We are very happy that we already have more than 100 countries participating in the network and we would be very happy to get more. Countries from Africa, South America, Asia, and the Near East are very important for us. In those countries there is a high prevalence of diabetes and I believe there is a high demand and high activity that we can learn from and also the other way around. I am especially interested in people from the countries that are not represented at all of the big international meetings. I am interested in the people who do the daily work in diabetes. I would like to offer them the chance to use the network and the directory to share their ideas.
DH: Could you explain in more detail how you will “build a climate of understanding the successes and also of understanding the difficulties of implementing diabetes” by means of the Diabetes Prevention Directory?
I want to build a dialogue that leads to understanding what the difficulties in implementing diabetes prevention programs are. It is easy to learn from successes. It’s much more difficult to learn from the failures and to learn about the barriers people face. I believe the latter is much more important for us. If someone is honest and reports the difficulties he’s experienced in diabetes prevention, then he will help others to avoid making the same misstep. The network is designed to be a community that helps each other.
DH: What can people in the United States do to help or join these international efforts?
Everyone in the USA who is interested in joining the Diabetes Prevention Directory is invited to do so. America has a lot of experience in performing large prevention studies and also in implementing diabetes prevention into daily work. The experiences in the USA are different than in Finland or in Germany, and these are experiences that are so important for us. Please go ahead and register today. Share your experiences, your interests, and your ideas with all the other people in the network.
DH: Anything else you’d like to add, Professor Schwarz?
Diabetes prevention is important. I personally believe that the challenge we have to address in the next decade is prevention as well as education. I am 38 years old now, so I have about 20 years in the diabetes world ahead of me and I am sure that we will be successful. If we are able to develop, to implement, and to perform programs for the primary prevention of type 2 diabetes, we will be successful. We owe this to our patients, to their families, and to the world. It’s also an obligation to ourselves if we are honest and agree that diabetes is a preventable disease.
I invite you to join the diabetes discussion, to help us and other people in the network and to let diabetes prevention become a reality in practice. Thank you.