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July 10, 2008

Yesterday while I was surfing the Internet, I stumbled upon this jewel of a segment:

Apparently, Good Morning America aired a segment on ways to cut your risk of developing diabetes.

Notice something strange?

That’s right. They neglected to distinguish that this was type 2 diabetes they were talking about. I did not watch the segment (thank God) but apparently the doctor on the segment did not make one attempt to indicate that you can only cut your risk for type 2 diabetes, but there is nothing you can do to cut your risk for type 1 diabetes.

A write-up of the segment was posted on their website, and quickly the title was changed to specify type 2 diabetes. But the damage was done.

Thousands – possibly millions – of people were once again fed the message that there is only one diabetes. While many people have protested against the almost criminalization of type 2 diabetes, which I am opposed to as well, the fact is that type 2 diabetes does display certain characteristics that are contrary to type 1 diabetes.

The idea that diabetes is preventable is a misconception on both sides of this coin. For type 1 diabetes, it is never preventable. Ever. It is not curable. Ever. It can simply be managed through insulin and an understanding of how food, exercise and other factors can impact your blood sugars. For type 2 diabetes, it can be preventable, but not always. Even if a person could have prevented their diabetes, there is no reason to make them feel like a bad person. Some could say that a high blood sugar reading is “preventable”, but we encourage the belief that a reading or an A1C result does not reflect the worth of a person. We need to remember that if we don’t want to be judged by our numbers, then type 2 diabetics deserve the same in return.

We are then left with the misconceptions perpetuated by the media. Already more than 80 people have commented on this story, including myself, Bernard, Landileigh and Kerri (perhaps more, though these were the only ones I know of). My hope is that this shows the producers at ABC that we will no longer tolerate these misconceptions being spread by the media.

In my view, there is no other disease that is so consistently misrepresented in news broadcasts which I feel is an enormous disrespect to all of us – people with type 1, people with type 2, families, friends and colleagues. So many hours are spent educating the public on AIDS, cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and now autism.

This entire disease is ridden with media misconceptions. I’m tired of it. We’ve raised our voices inside this community with our blogs posts and message board threads. It’s time to move this conversation outside of our circle. We need to stop chastising journalists and instead we need to prevent it from even happening. Proactive, not reactive. We need to start sending these letters to those who have the biggest influence in public knowledge: the journalists. Start small. Contact your local newspaper’s health reporter. Contact your local TV channel. Tell them your story. It’s worth being told. Even if you don’t get on the television, even if you aren’t in a newspaper, at least the reporter is aware for the next World Diabetes Day, for the next celebrity diagnosis, for the next athlete’s achievement.

We need to start now.

  1. Beth permalink
    July 10, 2008 5:58 PM

    I think we need two totally different names, since they are two totally different diseases.

  2. Betty Jackson permalink
    July 10, 2008 8:18 PM

    Well said Allison. I usually look at GMA but for whatever reason I missed that segment. I feel as you do regarding our disease, that’s why when I speak of our disease I make the distinction between the two. Educating the public is our job I hate being lumped together as if T1s are the same as T2s. I don’t think of T2s as being totally responsible for their Diabetes I do share my information with whoever needs it.

  3. July 28, 2008 12:10 PM

    My four-year-old was recently diagnosed with Type 1 and I am amazed that almost every time I tell someone, what they know about diabetes is about Type 2. “Oh, yes, I’ve heard that diabetes is on the rise for children because they don’t eat right or exercise.” It really pisses me off. I have a child that I have been raising with a very healthy lifestyle from the day she was born (she’s active and we’re vegetarian). I couldn’t have done anything and yet they always lump her into that group. It’s a crime that kids are getting type 2 because for many of them it was preventable had the parents made healthier choices for their children.

    Sorry to rant:)

  4. July 28, 2008 6:44 PM

    Agreed! It’s maddening when strangers ask how my son got his Type ! diabetes, if it was from eating too much sugar, and when he will get over it. Two different names for types 1 and 2 would really help, but I’m afraid it’s too late.

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