Awareness = Prevention?

Every year during November — National Diabetes Month — there are increased efforts by organizations, corporations, and government agencies to promote awareness of diabetes. But while the extra media exposure given to diabetes this month may motivate a spike in publicity efforts by these groups, their awareness campaigns are typically ongoing. These campaigns employ a wide variety of strategies and messages to get the word out about diabetes. Although the goal of each particular publicity effort is not always firmly stated, presumably the main goal of groups engaging in outreach is to prevent diabetes. Are they succeeding?

Perhaps most prominent among these initiatives is the American Diabetes Association’s Stop Diabetes campaign. The Web site implores visitors to “share” (their stories, by uploading a video), “act” (by officially joining the Stop Diabetes movement), “learn” (about diabetes), and “give” (money, to the American Diabetes Association). There are video testimonials from famous people with both Type 1 (Bret Michaels) and Type 2 diabetes (Billie Jean King), as well as a wide-ranging blog called Diabetes Stops Here.

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Another such initiative is Novo Nordisk’s Diabetes Barometer. This site offers introductory videos and Web pages featuring statistics and information on three diabetes-related topics: societal awareness, economic impact, and clinical outcomes. Yet another initiative is the Diabetes Public Health Resource from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This Web site has a diverse mix of offerings including basic information, statistics, audio clips, and news articles on diabetes, with numerous references to the importance of prevention and warnings about the toll diabetes can take. One example is a page called “Diabetes: You Could Be at Risk. Take the Test. Know Your Score,” which asks visitors to answer several simple questions to assess their risk of Type 2 diabetes.

As a person with diabetes, what do you think of these campaigns? Were you aware of them — or campaigns like them — before you were diagnosed with diabetes? Do you think any sort of ad campaign could have affected whether you got (Type 2) diabetes? Are ad campaigns important even if they don’t actually help prevent diabetes? Do you feel a need, or a responsibility, to try to prevent others from getting diabetes? Leave a comment below!

  • L. Kuntz

    As a diabetes educator, I think these questions are oversimplifying the issue. An ad campaign will not in and of itself prevent diabetes, however, it does contribute. Increasing awareness by utilizing ad campaigns can increase knowledge of the need for more research and create more funding to that end. Educating the masses on risk factors associated with developing diabetes allows them follow up with health care providers to help address those factors identified as prevalent in their individual lives to possibly prevent the onset, or slow the complications, of diabetes. Also, diabetes care can not accomplish anything if an individual does not even know they are diabetic; awareness of signs/symptoms of diabetes can help many people find their way to care. So, no, just talking about diabetes does not prevent it, but it does contribute to the motivation factor for people to become engaged and follow through with the actions that do prevent and manage diabetes.

  • Natalie Sera

    I don’t remember being aware of any ad campaigns from before I was diagnosed in 1991 at the age of 43.

    What I do remember from a very young age (3 or 4) is my maternal grandmother having a black box, and having a syringe in it and sticking it in her thigh, and boiling it.

    There was discussion of diabetes in my family, and the caution “Natalie, don’t eat that; you’ll get diabetes!”I don’t know if my siblings and cousins got the same message, but none of them has developed it, and most are in their 50’s and up.

    Ironically, my mother never got it, and I thought I was home free when she reached her 70’s with nary a sign, so when I developed symptoms and was diagnosed, it came as a total shock to me. Plus a guilt trip.

    If I had known more about diabetes, I might not have been so shocked. One of the messages I think important is that you DON’T have to have a first degree relative with diabetes in order to develop it yourself.In fact, when I answer the short questionnaire that the ADA publishes in November, I don’t score as being at risk of diabetes, whereas my non-diabetic brother does!!

    Nothing if not ironic!