Awareness

I recently saw a headline that said something like no need for Awareness, need for more progress toward a cure. Who could argue with that? Life being what it is, I did not click on the article at the time. I think it was a chapter of JDRF that posted it and now, of course, I can’t find it. The headline itself got me thinking, however. Of course anyone who lives with diabetes, type 1 or type 2, yearns for a cure. Type 1s, in particular, long for a day without finger sticks, pump site injections & continuous glucose monitor site injections, if you’re lucky enough to have access to these fantastic technologies. I don’t know anyone who enjoys the constant invasive nature of this disease. Yes, get us a cure as soon as possible. A cure. Not more technology. So I have no argument with the initial impact of that lost headline. Awareness, however, is something that could very possibly act as the much needed catalyst to that elusive cure.

The organizations that provide services for people with diabetes have done a very poor job in raising awareness. Why does that matter?

First, raising awareness is key to getting the nearly 8 million Americans who have not been diagnosed, diagnosed so they can take the necessary steps to saving their lives. The brilliant Breast Cancer Awareness campaign has helped to reduce deaths from Breast Cancer by  36%. This reduction includes improved treatments but it also includes early detection which can be traced back to an aggressive awareness campaign. When you see a pink ribbon you know what it stands for. You have no idea what visual image represents diabetes. If a diabetes awareness campaign can get people who don’t even know they have diabetes into proper treatment we can reduce mortality from diabetes related complications significantly. Who could be against that?

Secondly, I believe, raising awareness also raises money. Money sorely needed for research. Research that will lead to a cure. One of the most irritating things to me is going to the American Diabetes Association or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation web sites and being immediately asked for a donation. This is, in my opinion, a crass way to raise money and it is a constant, non-stop occurrence. These organizations give little information as to why they need this money before they ask. That, my friends, is a huge turn off. In addition, there is very little coming back to us in the way of information about how that money is being used and what benefit it has toward the average person with diabetes.

Third, diabetes is an epidemic that costs our healthcare system upward of $250 Billion. That’s Billion with a “B”. An awareness campaign can help to reduce that number for sure. With nearly 8 million people not diagnosed it will, at the very least, get some of those people diagnosed. That in itself will save the costs incurred from the devastating medical results of untreated diabetes. The amputations, heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness and other debilitating maladies that untreated diabetes causes can be reduced if we make a national effort to get these people diagnosed.

During November, National Diabetes Month, there was very little attention paid to diabetes in the national media. It seems that Mo-vember has moved in to November and boldly pushed diabetes aside. Granted, this year International Diabetes Day was marred by the horrific events in Paris but a month is 30 days and there was very little seen on television about diabetes in the midst of male hosts sporting their unshaven faces for Mo-vember. I, as a prostate cancer survivor, applaud this aggressive campaign. I mourn, however, for the complete lack of attention paid to diabetes. A disease that affects nearly 30 million Americans. A disease that affects far more of our population than almost any other disease. Why is no one aware of that?

I believe we need a National Diabetes Awareness Campaign. We need our “pink ribbon”. We need to raise more money for a cure. We need to diagnose the undiagnosed. We need to let people know about the progress toward a cure. We need to show that a $250 Billion healthcare bill cannot be tolerated in a country whose healthcare costs continue to rise.

A diabetes awareness campaign certainly couldn’t hurt and by the metrics of other diseases and their campaigns, it would definitely help.

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