From 6-7 September 2018, the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) convened a diverse group of 21 experts in the fields of public health, diabetes, ageing, immunology and sociology for the “Vaccinations and the At-risk Adult Population of Diabetes” expert meeting held in Belfast, United Kingdom.
The IFA brought “unlike” groups together with the aim to share knowledge and build capacity on the importance of adult vaccination for the at-risk population of diabetes and to determine optimal strategies to push the agenda forward.
The one-and-a-half-day meeting was broken into presentations, plenary panels, discussions and a breakout session. Several key messages arose from the meeting, outlined below.
1. The interconnection between ageing, diabetes, and vaccine-preventable diseases
The right for older people to stay active and contribute to society is important, however relies heavily on the ability to age in good health with high functional ability. Adult vaccination is critical to maintaining health and functional ability in later life due to the decline in immune system function as one grows older. Additionally, diabetes increases the risk and worsens control of vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs), and VPDs worsen the control of diabetes. Vaccination for VPDs such as shingles, pneumonia and influenza are crucial to healthy ageing for people with diabetes
2. The importance of cross-sector collaboration
A strong strategy to raise adult vaccination on the agenda of diabetes organizations proposed by meeting experts was to collaborate across sectors (public health, diabetes organizations, and ageing organizations) in the hopes of joint campaigns, joint statements and joint conferences to both raise awareness and educate others on the importance of vaccines for people with diabetes.
3. Using traditional and social media to raise awareness
Social and traditional media was described as playing a crucial role in promoting adult vaccination to people with diabetes. Different people engage with social media in different ways, emphasizing the importance of using a variety of traditional and social media platforms to promote the message and educate listeners or viewers.
4. Forming evidence and providing education
Forming evidence and providing education on the importance of vaccination for people with diabetes is critical to improving uptake rates and raising vaccination on the agenda of diabetes organizations. Limited research exploring adult vaccination and people with diabetes (especially with regards to pneumonia and shingles) is a barrier that needs to be addressed. Delegates noted diabetes education programs such as DESMOND could be used to educate people on the importance of vaccination and emphasized the importance of placing vaccine education on the curriculum of diabetes health care providers.
The information gained from the meeting reinforces the importance of mobilizing knowledge to at-risk group organizations such as diabetes organizations. Fruitful discussion throughout the expert meeting led to meaningful deliberations on proposed outcomes. Delegates agreed to form a consensus statement comprising a clear and purposeful statement on the importance of vaccination for adults with diabetes, and the importance of raising this on the agenda of diabetes organizations. In addition, several connections were made between the IFA and organizations including Age NI and Diabetes UK, NI to collaborate on future work (such as the formation of educational videos) to educate members of their organizations on the importance of vaccination to older people with diabetes. Contact Project Officer, Megan Acton (MActon@ifa-fiv.org) for more information.