Yesterday the American Diabetes Association’s CEO Tracey Brown delivered a press conference in order to trumpet the organization’s “refreshed brand.” The ADA announced its new slogan, “Connected for Life,” a campaign which seeks to emphasize the scope of the diabetes epidemic – an astonishing 50% of the country now has diabetes or pre-diabetes. The campaign also hopes to highlight the authentic experiences of people with diabetes, both through viral marketing and by featuring unvarnished real-life testimonies in its ads.
One particularly striking video featured a college student’s frank admission that he has been forced to ration his insulin due to high costs. Ms. Brown explained that many people with diabetes had expressed to her that they wished the ADA would look at the ugly side of diabetes – the stress, the stigma, even the hopelessness – square in the face. A promoted hashtag, #everydayreality, encourages social media users to share the reality of life with diabetes.
Ms. Brown’s address began with her own heartfelt diagnosis story: Ms. Brown is the first CEO in the history of the ADA to have diabetes. She continued with an impassioned promise to “attack this epidemic,” stating that in the past the ADA had been too complacent, staid, and slow-moving to truly meet its challenges.
When she joined the ADA, Ms. Brown left behind a successful career as a marketing and operations executive. It’s clear that she’s eager to bring her business expertise to her new role. Her talk seemed less Fortune 500 and more Silicon Valley firebrand. She described an ADA that needs to be innovative and agile, a “disruptive” and “data-driven” organization that can “hack” itself and “accelerate” solutions and “iterate” rapidly in response to changing challenges. She specifically called out a new effort to fund younger medical investigators, noting that most Nobel prize winners achieve their brilliant breakthroughs in their late 20s.
Pre-diabetes would appear to be a focus of increasing concern within the organization. Some 40% of the country may have pre-diabetes, and 90% of them are unaware of it, many millions of potential targets for awareness campaigns and intervention measures.
Ms. Brown’s discussion of nutrition may be of special note to ASweetLife readers. While the topic was barely broached during the prepared remarks, a follow-up question prompted her to address the ADA’s dietary recommendations. Ms. Brown emphasized that the recently released Nutrition Therapy Consensus Report represented the ADA’s best and most current thinking on the subject. That report endorsed individualized diet plans, emphasizing that no “one size fits all approach” can be recommended to people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Advocates of a low-carb regimen can at least be pleased that the report endorses extreme carbohydrate restriction as one viable and effective strategy for glucose management. Ms. Brown pledged that the ADA would do more to publicize the benefits of diets such as low-carb, paleo and vegan, acknowledging that so many people with diabetes appear to thrive with them. Endorsement of any one diet or macronutrient intake standard is unlikely to be forthcoming; Ms. Brown cautioned that she still needs to “meet people where they are.”