Community Impact

Friends for a long, healthy and happy life

Walgreens participation in the Friends for Life conference helps connect kids and underscores its deep commitment to diabetes care and prevention.

By Steve Rausch
When Shauna Markes-Wilson stood on stage to deliver the opening remarks at the Children with Diabetes’ 24th annual Friends for Life conference at Walt Disney World in July, she saw a room full of hope.

A group of young kids and teens who have type 1 diabetes, their caregivers and extended families, and diabetes clinicians were gathered together to share their stories and help motivate and support others who walk in similar shoes.

The conference—which also featured keynote speaker Tracey Brown, EVP and President, Walgreens Retail & Chief Customer Officer—included Walgreens as its exclusive pharmacy partner, underscoring the company’s longstanding leadership on diabetes care and prevention.

Brown recounted her own journey with diabetes that began with the birth of her daughter 20 years ago, speaking about how her family inspired her to make healthier choices that have allowed her to live an active, fulfilling life, despite the disease.

Friends for Life conference attendees having fun at the Walgreens booth.

Markes-Wilson, Walgreens director of pharmacy and retail operations for Georgia East Area in Region 28 (Georgia/North Florida), and also a pharmacist, knows of the health risks posed by the disease, but she also understands the power that education and good care play in helping people with diabetes live and thrive.

“This is the first conference I’ve ever been to where I’ve seen children who are living with diabetes interacting with other kids who have the same disease, but also with parents and grandparents,” says Markes-Wilson. “Friends for Life starts a dialogue that leads to instilling good behaviors to treat their disease and guide them to make good lifestyle choices. That’s why it’s such a good fit with Walgreens, because the more they understand diabetes, how it can impact their health and how to manage it, the healthier their lives will be.”

Shauna Markes-Wilson delivers opening remarks at the Children with Diabetes’ 24th annual Friends for Life conference at Walt Disney World in July.
The week-long conference included seminars, social outings and an expo where Walgreens showcased an outer-space-themed booth with games, an Instacart-powered pop-up shop for Walgreens brand diabetes supplies, first-aid essentials and sun care items, plus pharmacists who were answering questions on everything from glucose monitoring to navigating insurance and co-pays.


Committed to diabetes care

According to the American Diabetes Association, 37.3 million Americans have diabetes, and nearly 2 million of those have type 1 diabetes, including about 244,000 children and adolescents. Diabetes is the leading cause of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation among Americans.
Walgreens commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of the communities it serves has always been the company’s underlying mission, with diabetes a particular focus. And that starts with its pharmacists. With nearly 9,000 locations in communities across the U.S., Walgreens pharmacists are an accessible healthcare resource—and they take that responsibility seriously. More than 20,000 have completed special diabetes training, so when they engage with patients at the pharmacy they’re able to have conversations with them, helping them understand the critical steps to keep them healthy with their chronic illness.

That is particularly true in underserved populations where primary care physicians can sometimes be more difficult to access and diabetes rates are higher than normal. At Walgreens, approximately 45% of pharmacists are considered people of color and often live in the same communities where they work, so they help make healthcare local and trusted.
“The accessibility of our pharmacists to patients—especially those with diabetes—is so important to setting those patients up for better health,” says Markes-Wilson. “You don’t need an appointment to see a Walgreens pharmacist, so you can simply walk in and go up to the consultation window to ask your question. They are there to educate on proper care, like how to dose and administer insulin and use a glucose monitor, but they’re also there to be a trusted resource to help people understand more about the disease they’re living with, and to help them with their care plan that ensures they can live a happy and fulfilling life with diabetes.”
Walgreens booth at the Friends for Life conference. 

Equipping patients with the right tools

Walgreens diabetes expertise and expansive product offerings cover insulin injections and monitoring A1C and glucose levels (Walgreens is the largest provider of continuous glucose monitors and glucose monitoring supplies in the U.S.), but also includes equipment and expert direction for monitoring blood pressure, offering the right vitamins and supplements, providing guidance on proper foot care, helping patients understand the differences in needles, and directing patients on staying up-to-date on their immunizations like flu, COVID and hepatitis that can cause complications if not addressed.

Walgreens provides extensive diabetes resources on, from tips on eating right to managing costs to free digital wellness tools. Diabetes patients can take advantage of a 24/7 live chat with a pharmacy expert to get answers to care questions and stay adherent to their medications by connecting with the pharmacy.

“We offer many opportunities for diabetes patients to connect with Walgreens wherever they are on their care journey, whether they’re newly diagnosed or have been living with the disease for years,” says Markes-Wilson. “With our digital tools, everything is accessible and at their fingertips. It’s their window to Walgreens and opens up a world of possibilities for better care.”

For Markes-Wilson, the Friends for Life conference showed that the future of diabetes care and prevention is bright.

“This conference gave me such a fulfilling feeling. It was different from anything I’ve experienced,” she says. “We watched kids with diabetes get to be normal kids, running around and having fun, but also learning about how to manage their conditions and stay healthy.
“There is so much damage this disease can cause if it’s not identified early and treated properly,” she continues. “So, partnering with Friends for Life is a perfect fit for Walgreens and our mission to be the go-to resource for diabetes care and enabling patients to live more joyful lives through better health.”

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