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Local Support Groups

By David Mendosa

Last Update: July 1, 2002

You can't find every resource about diabetes on the Internet. Books, magazines, and local support groups come to mind as some of the most important resources that exist in real rather than cyber space.

But the Internet is still the best tool for locating even local resources. You just have to know where to look.

Nothing can compare with a local support group.

I was lucky. A local support group in Santa Barbara, California, where I was living when my diabetes was diagnosed in 1994, helped me a lot. Since none of my family or friends had diabetes and I didn't yet have access to the Internet, this group was my introduction to other people who were trying to deal with diabetes.

Later, when I worked for the dearly lamented—one of the most unfortunate victims of the dot-com bust—we started to develop a directory of all the local support groups in this country. Because we didn't know where to look, we didn't know it then that another site was far ahead of us.

Now, I do know where to look. For most people the best place to look is right here on the Web site of the American Diabetes Association.

"We have always tried to provide our constituents with information about support groups," says Rick Johnston, the ADA's national vice president for constituent relations. "Since we are not directly involved with running most of these groups, this can be a challenging task. Contact information often changes; groups come and go. We have been providing this information on the Web since we first launched our site."

At press time the ADA has 774 support groups in the organization's contact management system. If your link to the American Diabetes Association's Web site is not already customized to get local information, you can enter your ZIP code on the home page. Or click on the Get Local page.

Usually, the listing shows when and where the group meets and gives contact information. If you are lucky enough to live in the New York City area, the ADA's Web site lists 63 groups from which you can choose.

If you live in Fairbanks, Alaska, the site shows one local support group there and three others elsewhere in the state. But if you live in Honolulu, Hawaii, or Las Vegas, Nevada, the site does not list any local support groups.

That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that there are no local support groups in Honolulu or Las Vegas. Besides the ADA's national office in Alexandria, Virginia, the organization has 12 regions consisting of 73 area offices. The on-line listing is incomplete because, "Not all area offices have been able to complete this task as yet," Rick says.

What can you do then to find the local support groups in your area? You can fall back on a technology that is older than the Web. You can use the telephone.

If there are no local support groups listed on the ADA's Web site, you can connect your local office by calling 1-888-DIABETES, which in numbers is 1-888-342-2383 (in this case the "s" in diabetes is silent). That's the number to call, Rick suggests, because the ADA's Call Center at 1-800-DIABETES uses the same on-line directory that is available to individuals accessing the organization's Web site.

The Web is still a great place to learn about diabetes. But for meeting other people with diabetes nothing can compare with a local support group. 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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