Hello again, Diabetes Alert Day.
Like clockwork every year, the American Diabetes Association marks its annual D-Alert Day on the fourth Tuesday of March. This is a one-day "wake-up call" designed to make people more aware of type 2 diabetes and offer them ways to assess their own potential to develop this condition. In other words, "Hey, you don't want diabetes so do something about it now while you can!"
Twenty-thirteen marks the 25th year the ADA's doing this alert day, they tell us.
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We're all for diabetes awareness of any kind, particularly if it helps stem the tide of the growing "epidemic" of type 2 both nationally and worldwide. Yes, we do wish that type 1 diabetes received the same kind of highly visible awareness efforts, but we totally get why that's less likely (a much smaller risk pool) and we get why this type 2 effort is important for our entire community, particularly the 79 million Americans with "pre-diabetes" and the other 7 million who may already be living with diabetes but not yet realize it.
A big component of D-Alert Day has become the online type 2 Risk Assessment Test developed by the ADA. The theme for 2013 is "Take It . Share It" (creative, huh?). You can check out the details at the ADA's Stop Diabetes webpage and Facebook page. For everyone who takes the test between March 26 and April 9, delicatessen company Boar's Head will donate $5 to the ADA up to $50,000. They sponsored the test last year, but unlike the four weeks they gave people to take the test last year, they've cut the $5 donations to a 2-week period. The ADA reports that last year, over 615,000 online risk tests were taken during a four-week period and 52,000 were on D-Alert Day alone.
So, is D-Alert Day nothing but a push for an online risk test? If so, why should we care? We put this question to ADA spokeswoman Anna Baker, who says this:
"If someone scores high on our test, they are encouraged to follow up with their health care provider. The more people who learn their risk, the closer we come to stopping diabetes. In fact, a goal of our current Strategic Plan is that by the end of 2015, significantly more Americans with pre-diabetes will be aware of their condition and actively engaged in diabetes prevention. Alert Day helps us get there. If someone hears our message and takes charge of their health in other ways, then that is still a success story."
Although the ADA test focuses solely on type 2, the organization stresses that we type 1 PWDs can really help to help relay how important this is. Because we know firsthand what it's like to live with this disease everyday, they say, so we can help by "encouraging family and friends to take the test, learn their risk, and make the choice (we type 1s) didn't have." Inspiring people to take action, as it were.
Just for kicks, I thought it would be interesting to take the risk test myself as a lifelong type 1 PWD -- just to see if the thing would ID me as being in the danger zone.
I was surprised how simple the test is. Just 8 quick question on the basics: gender, ethnicity, age, height, weight, family D-history, blood pressure and whether you're physically active. That was it. Nothing else. And the scoring is not too well explained, either. Basically, a score of 4 or higher indicates "higher risk," and a warning appears recommending that you see a doctor to discuss "additional testing." A score of 4 or lower indicates lower risk, they say.
I got a score of 2, which was kind of hard to interpret considering that I'm a longtime type 1 (?) Clearly my type 2 risk is low (good blood pressure, physically active, etc.), although T2 does run in my family. NOTE: while taking the test, my meter was showing 184 mg/dL -- waving to my mom who's also a longtime type 1, and my paternal grandma who lives with type 2!
Making the News
What kind of big publicity is the ADA doing today from their end?
Well, their president of health care and education, Lurelean B. Gaines is conducting a radio media tour today targeting stations across the country.
The ADA's also publishing a glossy color 36-page "advertising supplement" in 10 newspaper markets across the U.S.: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, New York Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, San Jose Mercury News, and the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun. This is one of those thin little color "magazines" that focuses on one topic, and is filled with ads for same.
Not in one of those markets? You can check out the e-version online. You'll see that it contains info about the Risk Test, healthy living and eating tips, and tidbits about new research from last year's Scientific Sessions. There are also a couple "success stories" included -- type 2 PWD Tony Castillo from Odessa, TX, who's an elementary school teacher diagnosed last year and has been living healthier; and they profile 18-year-old Heather Berg from Kent, WA, who was diagnosed with type 1 eight years ago and is the ADA's current National Youth Advocate. It's also filled with ads (which paid the expenses for running it) ranging from food items to glucometers, plus supply and medication coupons, etc.
Besides this paid insert, we'll likely also see a bunch of stories about diabetes today from newspapers and stations that covering D-Alert Day as a news item -- so get ready for the usual onslaught of pings by your, mom, neighbor, and Aunt Betty: "I saw this story about diabetes today!" (that's how it always hits us). Anyway, it's all a positive for D-Awareness!
Meanwhile, we'd love to see more active programs that actually help folks at high risk do something about it, like the Palo-Alto based startup Omada Health, which is combining a system of online education and community with patient-to-patient coaching and mentoring.
So where is the Blue Circle in all of this, you might ask. The worldwide universal symbol of diabetes? Or at least the color blue as a theme?
Sanofi U.S. at least is using blue in its online campaign, that it's calling Check It Blue for Alert Day. That effort actually began last week and runs through Wednesday morning, and it's pretty simple: Take the Risk Test, Mark your hand with a blue checkmark and snap a photo, share that photo on the campaign page to show you took part, thus encouraging others to take the risk test and do the same. To us, this looks like sort of a mashup of the Big Blue Test and the Word in Your Hand campaigns developed by Manny Hernandez of the Diabetes Hands Foundation.
While I've taken the risk test as a type 1 (somewhat tongue in cheek), one thing I'm actually going to do to really earn my check mark is get my A1C test. That's looooong overdue -- and probably no surprise based on how I've been managing my D lately. So, that will be my personal contribution this week, along with spreading word...
Anyway, all this "blue" talk brings to mind the upcoming World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14. Yes, it's still eight months away, but the International Diabetes Federation begun putting out some teasers already this month, and the full campaign with an online platform kicks off in April. Some DOCers had a brainstorming session with the IDF team by phone a few weeks ago to chat about WDD plans, and how to rally and unify the Diabetes Community.
The theme they came up with is "Take A Step For Diabetes," which encourages folks to do any number of activities -- wearing blue, promoting the Blue Circle, helping to light up a building in blue, physical activity, etc. As long as you do something toward raising D-awareness and helping improve D-Lives, you earn a certain number of "steps." The IDF is creating a custom online platform for its website, where people will be able to log and chart their "steps" and see how their efforts play into the total global campaign. The whole initiative will come to a head in December at the 2013 World Diabetes Congress in Melbourne, Australia.
Personally, I'm already in full-on planning mode for WDD. My main goal is raising awareness about why a local monument in Indianapolis needs to be lit up in blue, so the message of D-awareness isn't lost on people who might naturally think it's done just to support our football team (blue mascot!). So, Hello Indianapolis, I hope you're reading this explanation right here on D-Alert Day! Stay tuned for more local advocacy!
We've written in the past about various things PWDs can do today aside from just the risk test. But we'd love to hear from you about what you are doing or think about on National Diabetes Alert Day. Let us know!