November is Diabetes Awareness Month, so now is a good time look a little ahead and discuss what awareness means and how it can help with prevention, education, and research.
The growing knowledge about the significant health costs of diabetes in both human and economic terms is a double-edged sword. More awareness is a good thing, but much of it is coming about because more and more people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
With more attention comes greater diabetes awareness, but there is still much more work to be done in terms of prevention and general education. For example, many people still often confuse the two types. You’ll also find some who think that diabetes is not very serious because the tools and knowledge for managing it have improved. As anyone who has diabetes knows, better tools and knowledge are terrific, but that is completely different than an actual cure.
So awareness is crucial for 3 reasons.
1. Prevention. A key contributor in most cases of type 2 diabetes is an unhealthy lifestyle. So educating people on the connection between unhealthy choices and risk of diabetes is one of the best ways to stop more cases from developing.
2. Understanding. The more people can understand the disease of diabetes, the more those who suffer from it will find a friendly and supportive environment. At work, within families, and among friends, the more they understand the disease and its consequences, the more support you can expect as you manage diabetes. Even if it is something as simple as a kind word, every bit of awareness can contribute to a positive environment.
3. Research. The blunt truth is that more awareness usually means more funding. As the number of people aware of the serious consequences of diabetes increases, more dollars go to research. Not only are people more likely to give, it also promotes a climate where public grants, private endowments, and other important sources of research funding flow toward research on cures, prevention and better treatment.
What Can You Contribute to Diabetes Awareness?
Maybe after reading the benefits of awareness, you are ready to step up and add your contribution to the cause of awareness. Here are a few suggestions on how you can add your voice to the cause:
- Visit the American Diabetes Association page about the upcoming American Diabetes Month.
They have a list of some terrific informational resources available. As of October 1st, they will also be collecting personal images via Facebook. The images should reflect what the theme “A Day in the Life of Diabetes” means to you or a loved one. Full details are available on the page, but uploading an image to Facebook also means you are making a contribution. CVS has agreed to donate $1 for each upload to the American Diabetes Association up to $25,000.
- Get a grey ribbon to show your support for diabetes awareness.
Piggybacking on the great success of pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness and other similar campaigns, the blue circle or the gray ribbon (often with a small red mark representing a drop of blood) has become a statement for those supporting the cause of diabetes awareness. Fun fact: the Diabetes Awareness Ribbon Facebook page has over half a million fans and counting and is quite active in terms of posts and comments.
- Raise the attention of local media.
Keep in mind that journalists, bloggers, and others in the media are always seeking good, relevant content. Local media in particular always have their radars up for stories that are both timely and can be tied to a national trend. National Diabetes Month is a perfect opportunity to suggest to a local newspaper or other media outlet a story on diabetes prevention or covering a local fundraiser for diabetes.
Of course, sometimes the best kind of raised awareness is the type delivered one-on-one during informal conversations. For example, maybe wearing a ribbon will lead to a conversation in the line at the grocery store and is a chance to tell people how common diabetes has become and its startling costs.
When they ask, you can communicate these attention-grabbing statistics from the American Diabetes Association. Almost 26 million children and adults have diabetes, and another 79 million can be considered pre-diabetic with elevated risk for developing type 2 diabetes. You might add that, in a time of great concern about higher healthcare costs, the American Diabetes Association puts the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes at $174 billion.
With numbers like that, the answer to the question about how much diabetes awareness is enough seems obvious. However much it is growing, we could use a lot more.