Well, happy World Diabetes Day. So by now I’ve seen a whole lot of alarmist headlines about the diabetes tsunami and its potential to destroy the health system and the ticking time bomb for heart disease and amputations that every person with diabetes is. The obligatory television closeups of enormous tracksuited derrieres, the possessors of which are clutching fast food bags and oversized soft drinks are also being aired- happy days. I’m yet to see landmarks turning blue, but hey, the day is not over yet.
The theme of this WDD is “prevention”. Given that there is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, those of us with type 1 diabetes are annoyed by the implication there is and type 2s are rightly, none too impressed with the message that they brought this disease on themselves. There are many obese people without type 2 diabetes and many lean people with it, so things are not as simple as the sound bytes that work well in mainstream media. Don’t blame the media though these messages are coming from the International Diabetes Federation and the diabetes organisations that many with diabetes support financially.
Well, you know what? I’m tired of it! With a combined population that would place us third in a list of the world’s most populous countries, falling behind only China and India in people power we are powerful.http://www.idf.org/worlddiabetesday/2013 With numbers like that we’re a superpower, united our economic power is huge and even though we are scattered throughout the world, governments could rise and fall on the diabetic vote. Get with the strength people, we are a force to be reckoned with.
There are many diabetes organisations that purport to represent the interests of people with diabetes who promote these messages of blame and stigma. If you are one of the 371 million people with diabetes who is sick of being blamed for the “epidemic of massive proportions”, don’t put up with it any more. Email, tweet, message on Facebook, send a snail mail letter telling those organisations you don’t like their messages and you’re withdrawing your financial support if more accurate, supportive messages are not portrayed. Threaten/carry out boycotts of companies who advertise on programs that mock diabetes. If enough organisations get this message and it threatens their hip pocket nerve it will stop. Government bodies may persist, but even they can’t ignore sheer numbers and will have to become, at least, more careful about the way in which they craft their public health messages.
It’s not like these prevention messages are working, they’ve been employed for a good 15 years at least and the incidence of diabetes continues to increase, so new strategy please.
I’ve always believed that the best approach to advocacy is talking with people face to face. With so many people with diabetes, we are ideally suited to a personal approach to educating and advocating for understanding and awareness of diabetes. If each person with diabetes educated just one other person a week, with just the basics of the disease, that there are different types of the disease, this is what you, personally have to do to manage yours and this is why medical and peer support is vital then that would be 19,290 million people educated in one year alone. It doesn’t have to be anything formal just a 5 minute chat when the topic of diabetes comes up, at work, at home, at the supermarket, anywhere really. That is so much more powerful than lighting a monument blue, a message which is unclear and soon forgotten (especially as it’s blue this week, was pink last week and will be green the next) UNLESS it is backed up by people like us giving informed and sensible commentary around it.
Carpe diem let’s change the diabetes agenda my friends, one person at a time.