Diabetes as Black Smoke: Does the IDF’s Scare Tactic Work?


Over the last few years there have been many arguments in the diabetes space about the use of scare tactics to motivate people to take care of themselves. There was the very unpleasant ad campaign with the (fake) amputee (which I felt was not effective) and JDRF’s 1 in 20 campaign (which I believe did a good job raising awareness).

Now the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has released its first public service announcement. The IDF says its animated video  “challenges the public to look at diabetes in a different light, underlining the serious consequences of the disease that can often go unnoticed if it is not managed and treated properly. The video also promotes the importance of staying healthy to protect our future.”

The animated style of the video is somewhat appealing, there are no disturbing images and diabetes is portrayed as a dark smoke monster, reminding me of the series Lost, which sneaks up on very healthy looking people (everyone is very thin in the video) and kills them without warning.


After watching the video a few times I have some thoughts/questions:

Does the scare tactic in this video work?

I don’t think so.  The ‘black smoke monster as diabetes’ doesn’t strike me as a plausible metaphor.   In fact, diabetes is not a complete mystery, or a random monster that strikes without warning.  Research has a taught us a lot about diabetes and in many cases, especially with type 2, we can prevent or delay its onset.  And even if the black monster gets you, it doesn’t mean you’re going to drop dead.  With the right education and medication you can live a perfectly good and healthy life with diabetes.  So, the video might be effective, if, for example, it suggesed people get screened for diabetes.  There is no reference to risk factors (everyone in the video looks very healthy) and there is no suggestion that lifestyle factors can contribute to diabetes and/or its complications.   

So even if you believe that scare tactics work, does this one?  Is it scary or silly?

Tell me what you think.


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9 years ago

I completely agree with Michael’s analogy of the Diabetes Monster looking like ‘Smokey’ from Lost.  However, I too am confused as to whom is the target audience, as Rachid states….those WITH or WITHOUT diabetes?  I don’t believe scare tactics are an effective way to educate and since the point of the video appears to be that diabetes randomly strikes and kills all of its ‘victims’, it is also unrealistic and depressing.  I certainly don’t like my LADA diagnosis, but with new and improved treatments coming out now and in the future for diabetic management, I’m hopeful I’ll live a long,… Read more »

Mary Dexter
Mary Dexter
9 years ago

Not all the people in the video die.  The smoke monster attacks their vision, hearts and limbs.  Too often people aren’t diagnosed until after they have a heart attack, start losing their vision, or their feet go numb.  I am glad the IDF is moving away from the idea that diabetes is a “lifestyle” disease.  The shame/blame attached keep people from being properly diagnosed and treated.  As someone who was first misdiagnosed as Type 2 and advised to eat less, even though I was getting dangerously thin, I am particularly aware of the dangers inherent in the current belief.  My… Read more »

9 years ago

“Diabetes Kills: Stay Healthy”

Is this video targeted at people with, or without diabetes?

If those without, it suggests that you can avoid diabetes by “staying healthy”. But, for example with T1, this isn’t the case?

I think the video isn’t sure what it is trying to do, which sort of defeats the point slightly :/ 

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