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Consumer health

Online social networking helps diabetes patients

TORONTO – Wellocities, a joint effort by people living with diabetes, scientists, healthcare professionals and business leaders, is now up and running. It can be accessed at:

The online resource is designed to provide Canadians living with diabetes with a quick, free and easy way to find out about the status of their condition, what they need, and who can help them on their journey with the disease.

It allows users to search for health information and professionals, learn from like-minded individuals and monitor their health. By applying the power of social computing to diabetes, a pandemic in Canada, Wellocities creates new ways to empower Canadians and transform the way they deal with their health concerns.

Wellocities is a free service supported by online revenues from the presentation to users of information about people, places and services (e.g., health professionals, clinics, medications, devices, innovative consumer goods), and other products with which they could achieve optimal levels of health and well-being.

Wellocities is built using Drupal, an open-source Content Management System. The service is designed to be optimally viewed on several web browsers including Firefox and Internet Explorer. Integration with Facebook and eventually remote patient monitoring tools will allow Wellocities to act as a central hub for patient self-management.

Barbara Pasternak, Founder and Chair of the Diabetes Hope Foundation, uses Wellocities and feels that it will touch many lives. “Being able to instantly share health experiences, knowledge and resources with others who are affected by diabetes will have a profound impact on access to services and information that affect their quality of life,” she said.

Today, nearly 2 million known Canadians are affected by diabetes and at least 20% more remain undiagnosed. According to a recent study, diabetes is rapidly becoming a pandemic with one-third of individuals born after 2000 expected to be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives. Diabetes and other chronic diseases now affect nearly 40% of the Canadian population and consume up to 70% of the country’s annual healthcare budget.

“As the Canadian population ages, the management of chronic diseases such as diabetes is becoming a tremendous challenge to healthcare systems and society as a whole,” said Dr. Peter Sargious, Co-Chair of the Canadian Chronic Care Network and attending physician in the Calgary Health Region’s Diabetes Education Centre. “Wellocities expands the community of support for individuals and families looking to improve their health and well-being – and extends the capacity of health care teams to help them.”

“We still do not have a cure for diabetes. Therefore, it is essential for people living with this disease to be able to manage it every day, with as much wisdom and support as possible. Wellocities’s mission is to become the destination for Canadians interested in self-managing their health,” said Dr. Alex Jadad, Wellocities’s Chairman, and long-time public advocate, physician and world-renowned innovator on public empowerment efforts. “Thanks to the Internet, we can now be in control of decisions about our own health and well-being, personally or in partnership with health professionals.”

Wellocities is designed to fuel this transformation. It brings to people affected by diabetes:

• The most trusted health information sources available on the web;

• Canada’s first and only nationwide health directory with traditional and non-traditional health services, as well as private and public providers; and

• State-of-the-art social networking and collaborative features that allow people to monitor their own conditions, rate services and share first hand accounts of their health experiences with others.

Most importantly, Wellocities can be accessed conveniently through other social networking sites such as Facebook, which is now Canada’s leading Web destination and part of many Canadians’ daily routines. There are at least 57 groups related to Canadian diabetes among 6 million active Facebook users in Canada today.

“Wellocities is designed by patients and health professionals for patients and their caregivers,” said Dr. Amol Deshpande, Chief Medical Officer at Wellocities. “As a resource, it will continue to be developed, refined, and enhanced and improved constantly by its community.”