Scared Trait. Is It Helpful?

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Can we stop it with the scare tactics, already, and maybe start giving people a little hope? Geez! No wonder a lot of people don’t want to deal with diabetes. With all of the dire information, predictions, and scare tactics being put forth—by people in the diabetes industry,
yet—I’d guess folks figure that if they’re destined to be blind, bilateral amputees being wheeled to kidney dialysis three times a week anyway, they’re by golly going to have fun now!

“OK, Jan,” you ask. “What got you started this time?”

It started with the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) hot new ad campaign, which you can view here. Death. Amputation. Blindness. Photos of a coffin. A prosthesis. A card with braille.

The ADA wants money. Money for research. Money for prevention. Money for treatment. Not to mention adequate health coverage and the end of employment discrimination for people with diabetes. (I didn’t see the phrase “diabetes self-management education to help prevent,” etc., in the major talking points anywhere, but hey.)

Then, while surfing the ‘net, I went to and read, “No painful injections…” (Psst! Injections are painful once in a blue moon, but generally unfelt. After all, you’re injecting a tiny amount of a nonviscous fluid through a needle less than the diameter of a human hair into fatty tissue, which is fairly bereft of nerve endings.)

The site, of course, is selling insulin pumps…er, pods. And you do have to get that insulin inside your body somehow, which it handles by saying that it has the “world’s fastest insertion, that’s also virtually pain-free.”

Insertion. Injection. Whatever. And is it really pain-free or only “virtually” pain-free? The point (pun unintended) is that promoting the notion that injections are painful is probably preventing many people from using insulin who really need it to help control their blood glucose, and scaring many more.

There is, of course, inhaled insulin—which its manufacturer helps sell by mentioning “painful injections.”

I understand that it’s a conundrum. “We have to point out that all these terrible things are happening so we can get funding for needed programs,” I can hear diabetes organizations saying. And, to be fair, some people who have diabetes believe that if we go around looking like we’re healthy all the time, the powers that be won’t take diabetes seriously.

But I believe that that message is also preventing people from getting the care they need to lower their risk of reaching those dire outcomes. Wouldn’t a message of hope be more likely to spur people to take better care of themselves?

I’m also a firm believer in the fact that many of today’s diabetes complications stem from yesterday’s lack of knowledge and tools. It’s been less than fifteen years since the release of the outcomes of the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) and the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS), which showed that tighter control of blood glucose levels can lower the risk of diabetes complications; since the first nonsulfonylurea drugs were approved for Type 2 diabetes; since more physiological insulin analogs have become available; since the release of more user-friendly blood glucose meters; since the proliferation of insulin pumps for both types of diabetes; and probably much more. Frankly, things are changing so fast I’m having trouble keeping up with the onslaught.

I think another problem is that yesterday’s knowledge and tools are still being used by many of today’s health-care providers, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject. (You can see my previous post, “What Does Your Doc Know About Diabetes?”)

What if the message being given to people with diabetes was that, yes, this dirty, rotten, lousy condition can lead to all of those things, but you can reduce your risks by doing A, B, and C, and here’s how you can fit those things into your lifestyle?

I remember some LifeScan literature a few years ago that presented a problem and then gave a solution. Kind of along the lines of: “Tom felt tired in the afternoons, tested, and his blood glucose was 243. When he ate an apple at lunch instead of a megamuffin, he tested at 127 and felt much more energetic.”

A problem (high blood glucose), a solution (change one of your food choices), and an outcome (lower blood glucose). What a concept!

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