The response to my last post has been overwhelming and I’m grateful to everyone who has commented or contacted me – both in praise and in criticism. I fully understand the anger many parents of children with type 1 diabetes feel about the JDRF “1 in 20” ad. I think some of the arguments against the ad are justified, and I’m not writing this post to try to convince you that the ad is okay. I don’t like scare tactics and I don’t believe they work in the long run. That said, I don’t think JDRF is trying to scare us. We are not the intended audience of that ad. JDRF is trying to get the attention of people without diabetes. So my take on this is that we should not consider it as fear-inducing, but rather as increasing awareness. And isn’t “awareness” what this month is all about?
In reference to these JDRF ads in the New York Times and the Washington Post, Amy Tenderich at Diabetes Mine posed the thought: “We do wonder if spending huge amounts of money on a one-time shock campaign has any lasting effect.”
In my opinion, the lasting effect is entirely up to us. JDRF did the ground work. Now let’s take it from here. This is our chance to really be diabetes advocates and diabetes heroes. There are a good 25 million people living with some form of diabetes in the U.S. (I think it’s important to include people with type 2 diabetes, especially given that there are millions of type 2’s using insulin.) To the 25 million, add at least another 75 million of people who love someone with diabetes. We’re up to 100 million potential people (minimum) who have a vested interest in calling out for better technology: more accurate blood glucose monitors would help lower deaths from hypoglycemia, as would the low-glucose suspend pump, as would the artificial pancreas. Unlike, glucose-responsive insulin and a biological cure, these technological advances are all well within in reach. So let’s demand them. If you don’t like 1 in 20 in its negative context, change it. How about, let’s get 1 in 20 people connected to diabetes to sign JDRF’s Artificial Pancreas Petition? Why should we be happy with 100,000? Considering our numbers, anything less than 5 million seems like a failure to me.
Diabetes advocacy is easy. You don’t need a blog. You don’t even need any money. Make a sign and put it on your lawn, in your home’s window, your car. Make some signs with a strong message – one that suits you – and get a group together on November 14, World Diabetes Day. Let the media outlets in your city know what you’re going to do. And let them know why. You can tell them most people don’t know how dangerous diabetes is. You can tell them about JDRF’s ad. You can tell them the truth: insulin saves lives, but it also takes them.
Diabetes is a dangerous disease. If we don’t say it is, why will anyone fund research for a cure? If all we talk about is how well we do with diabetes, will the FDA rush to give us better technology?
The JDRF ad shouldn’t be taken as a step backwards. We’ve been doing things the same way for a long time. Sometimes you need to think differently. Sometimes, progress comes from taking a different approach. We shouldn’t view JDRF as a threat. We all want the same thing, and in this lies our strength. As Hallie, author of The Princess and The Pump says, “I don’t care if the stat is 1 in 20. Or 1 in 50. Or 1 in 100. Or 1 in 5000. It’s too many. Enough is enough.” Is there anyone who disagrees with that?
For a comprehensive summary of low glucose suspend pumps, the artificial pancreas, and the FDA, read Catherine Price’s post, A Plea to the FDA.
Click here to sign JDRF’s Artificial Pancreas Petition.