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Reality Check

By David Mendosa

Last Update: August 2, 2001

"Most of the information available about diabetes and the attitude of most health professionals attitudes is like a textbook," says Kate Gilbert, one of the founders and now the director of Reality Check. "The reality of living with it as younger people is very different."

“We have a bit of fun…”

The site is for people with diabetes from about 13 to 30 years old. It's for "people who are at uni, or in their first job, or just finding their feet," she says. The site is unique because as far as Kate or I know there aren't any other sites targeting people with diabetes of that generation.

It's been on-line for almost four years, based in Melbourne, Australia, and still little known in other countries. But it does have an ever-growing international audience, Kate says.

The group that started the site began by talking about the reality of diabetes and the day to day issues that they faced. That was difficult for them unless they were living with people who had a similar lifestyle and age.

"You didn't hear about people who hated their diabetes," Kate says. "You just heard about people who were amazing sports stars doing incredible things."

For these young people in Australia, however, getting diabetes is a sort of reality check on their lives, she says. "It makes you wake up and take notice."

Kate says that a couple of years ago some of them tried to change the name to something more descriptive. But they were voted down, because most everyone loves the name, she says, even though it doesn't say much about the site.

The site's most popular pages and the best part of the site are the discussion forums, Kate says. "You can get a response quickly and discussions get going. It is unmoderated. Some of the regulars who visit our site are very well informed and keep a check on the comments that are sort of dodgy."

Because of the age of the site's target audience, I wondered if the Reality Check site served as a dating service. "We have a bit of fun," Kate says with a laugh. "There have been a couple of romances. But no marriages."

A paper version complements the Web site. It's called Yada Yada, "a bit of a Seinfeld phrase," Kate says. It goes out every other month or so to 4,000 young adults with diabetes, mainly in Australia. Every two weeks they also send out an email update.

The site and the magazine started about the same time. "I happened to be working designing Web sites, so I thought I would throw together a basic site," Kate recalls. "And it has grown and grown as more people hear about it."

Their plans for the site include adding more personal stories and other information. "At the moment we are working on a travel section, because we want very much to be a resource for young Australians who tend to travel a lot. We have a custom to go to school, go to uni, finish uni, and buy a one way ticket to Europe and disappear for a year."

Whether they travel or stay at home, these young Australians can keep in touch by logging in to the Reality Check site. That should give them a welcome shot of reality. 

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

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