Type 1 Diabetes in the Philippines


Editor’s Note: Johanah Co is a member of the Young Leaders in Diabetes (YLD) program, representing the Philippines. In December of 2017 she traveled to Abu Dhabi for a YLD conference, and recounts her personal story here.

Type 1 diabetes in the Philippines

I live in the Philippines where every expensive test strip & every unit of insulin is paid out of our pocket. Imagine the difficulty people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) face. Our basic need for survival is at stake. How much greater is the cost when we also need to manage our mental, social, emotional and spiritual well being if our physical health is compromised? How can we conquer diabetes and not be afraid of complications? I hope we can address three areas:

  1. Accessibility to medications which will save lives
  2. Educational awareness which will provide for better quality of life
  3. Counseling services to encourage people with T1D to live without constant fear

We need the help and resources of the global diabetes community. We need provisions for test strips, insulin, HBAIC kits, counseling services and educational programs. Let’s work on making a holistic diabetes program that can be shared worldwide and encourage change. To live long is possible but we need help to avoid unnecessary deaths.

The YLD Program

Last winter, I was grateful to be sent by Diabetes Philippines (DP) to experience and network with 59 type 1 diabetes (T1D) mentors and leaders coming from seven regions of the world. From December 4-8, 2017, International Diabetes Federation (IDF) conducted a Young Leaders In Diabetes (YLD) program in Abu Dhabi to be the voice for young people with diabetes. The YLD program empowers all delegates to become diabetes advocates worldwide by raising diabetes awareness, prevention and education in hopes of providing access to quality care, improving quality of life and ending discrimination.

I was amazed and inspired to meet fellow T1Ds from different walks of life and professions: physicians, nurses, surgeons, dentists, teachers, businessmen, all of whom shared the various programs implemented in their countries. Striking programs that stood out to me included a diabetes talk show on a Christian radio station in Africa, a T1D theatrical play in Greece and a T1D football league in Hungary. I was surprised to learn different type 1 stories and issues from around the world. I felt uplifted when I received encouragement from fellow T1Ds. I’m excited about a world with fearless people with type 1 diabetes, living lives of longevity and acceptance.

We spent much of the time listening to various talks conducted by health care professionals that covered topics like:Diabetes & Oral Health, 10 Steps Advocacy, Neuropathy and Sex and Collaboration to make a better place for people with diabetesThe key takeaways were: (1) Oral health must be part of diabetes management to avoid periodontal disease; (2) Advocacy for diabetes can be raised when people talk more about it; (3) The knowledge for insulin dosage adjustment is essential when traveling. We were also interviewed as to the needs of our country. I responded by outlining the issues mentioned in the introduction, as well as the steps necessary to address these issues.

What comes next

I am continuously seeking help from sponsors such as Insulin for Life. When I was in Australia last year, I was grateful to receive free insulin primarily to distribute to my T1D friends in Philippines. I am still distributing the remaining insulin for 2018.


Living with type 1 diabetes can be hard and costly but it is manageable. A life of longevity and acceptance is possible through family support, a supportive health care team, accessibility to medication and glucose strips, diabetes education and counseling. I am very grateful for the support I receive from my family, doctors, friends, counselors and diabetes support group. Without them and God’s grace, I wouldn’t be where I am now. To God be all the glory.

Read more on access and type 1 diabetes.

WRITTEN BY Johanah Co, POSTED 10/05/18, UPDATED 07/25/23

Johanah Co was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2002. She is a member of the IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes (YLD) program, representing the Philippines. She aspires to be a traveling diabetes agent through collaboration with Diabetes Philippines (DP). She hopes to help people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) create their own support groups throughout the country, and register them for DP’s council on childhood diabetes. If you would like to create a Type 1 Workshop or support group, please contact Johanah at jco.fightdiabetes@gmail.com.