No global happy family, as diabetes advocacy groups fall into dispute

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) appears to be in a state of internal disarray prompting several founding members to leave the organisation.

A feature article in The BMJ said blame was largely being directed at the current IDF president Dr Nam Han Cho from Korea and his predecessor Dr Shaukat Sadikot from India.

“Both men have made or tried to make highly contentious changes to IDF activities, programmes, and staffing since 2016. In the past few years, national diabetes associations from the UK, France, Netherlands, and Denmark have all cut ties with the federation,” the article said.

It said criticisms of ‘continuous operational interference’ included:

  • dismissing an incumbent chief executive and then abolishing the position
  • attempting to remove an elected board member from the UK
  • disputes over control of the Life for a Child program which has been operated and funded by Diabetes NSW
  • semipublic references to fraud despite no evidence of this.

“Time spent managing conflict on so many levels is likely to have distracted the IDF board from its advocacy work.”

“Other controversial changes include the federation’s withdrawal from the Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance, a high level lobbying organisation founded by Ann Keeling, a former IDF chief executive.”

The BMJ article also said there were concerns over the IDF board’s approach to conflicts of interest.

“The row played out in a semipublic sphere throughout the first half of 2018, with accusations of racism, financial mismanagement, and abuse of expenses flung by players on both sides of the dispute in emails copied to the membership.”

IDF member Diabetes Australia declined to make a local comment on the situation to the limbic. Diabetes NSW & ACT did not respond to a request for a comment.

According to the BMJ, the IDF has not provided ‘a clear strategic direction or management framework’ for the Life for a Child program, despite repeated requests from Diabetes NSW.

“IDF and Diabetes NSW are in dispute over ownership of the name and logo of Life for a Child,” it said.

Diabetes Victoria CEO Craig Bennett said the concerns aired in the journal would be resolved before the next IDF congress in December 2019.

“Many people have been concerned about the governance of the International Diabetes Federation over the past few years,” he wrote in the latest Diabetes Victoria newsletter.

“These concerns have now been aired via an investigative piece in the BMJ this week …I hope confidence in the IDF, as the leading diabetes advocacy group in the world, can be restored by [December].

“In particular, I hope that the humanitarian program: Life for a Child, which has long been administered by Diabetes NSW/ACT (on behalf of the IDF) in providing insulin and other supplies to children in developing countries, can continue its great work unfettered by these upheavals.”

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