Lansons Conversations

Diabetes in the UK, the communications dilemma

World diabetes day and both main charities, Diabetes UK and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation ( JDRF ) are doing their bit to raise awareness of the subject. According to Diabetes UK 34% of the 2.3 million sufferers aware they are diabetics, 800,000 people, risk blindness, kidney disease and heart failure because they don’t control their blood sugar levels properly. I’m surprised it’s not higher than 34%, as managing the level of sugar in the blood to around 7% is a monumental task ( particularly, for the minority with type 1 diabetes, who do so without the help of a pancreas ). JDRF, the ‘search for a cure’ charity released research to Sky News showing that most people know next to nothing about the subject, let alone the difference between type 1 and type 2. Both the above are valid pieces of work that ring true to all of us with some understanding of the subject, but they highlight the communications dilemma facing diabetes organizations. Most sufferers in the UK choose to suffer in silence. Diabetics are not visible, they may be arguably the largest disabled group in the UK, but in the main they have no desire to be a group or be seen as disabled. Many find ignorance bliss, and choose not to tell their employer and all but the closest of friends of their disease. As a result the 34% failing to manage their blood sugars properly could do with more awareness, understanding and help. More awareness would clearly help the 500,000 undiagnosed type 2 diabetics appreciate their situation. However, the 1.5million who are doing fine, like things just the way they are, greater awareness of their plight is only likely to lead to stigmatism and maybe even reduced career opportunities. The communications dilemma for charities is likely to continue unresolved. Use their money to increase awareness, understanding, Government action and fund raising – or use it within the diabetic community to ensure that as many diabetics as possible manage their condition and live healthy active lives. It’s a tough one.