Put on your dancing shoes, Diabetes Community!
There's a new national education and wellness campaign aimed at getting you to move your booty.
The big message behind it is that just a little dancing can go a long way toward improving your health with diabetes.
The program, called T2 Dance Crew, was launched at the end of April by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of the JnJ family. Big names behind the effort are Debbie Allen, producer and choreographer of the popular reality show So You Think You Can Dance (which actually returns for its 11th season tonight!); hip-hop dancer Du-Shaunt "Fik-Shun" Stegall; and salsa-specialist Janette Manrara from past seasons of the show. The campaign includes instructional dance videos from the dancing stars in both English and Spanish, along with educational resources and even in-person events where PWDs can get some in-person info and dancing fun in their local communities.
Primarily focused on type 2 diabetes, this campaign is personal for Allen, who says her father's side of the family was hit hard with T2. Her father struggled with his diabetes, she says, and although he tried to make some lifestyle changes, the one thing she could never get him to do was exercise more. Allen's father died at 63 as a result of diabetes complications, and she wishes he could have been motivated to weave dancing into his world to help manage his glucose levels and stay fit.
That's the whole point of this campaign, which Janssen recruited Allen to participate in.
"They initiated this and I jumped in because this is such an important issue," Allen told us by phone recently. "I get approached to do a lot of these (promotional campaigns), and a lot of them do not ring true and seem honest, things I can't be passionate about and really get behind, so I turn them down. But this one really spoke to me."
Celebrity spokes-folks fronting campaigns for living healthier with diabetes is nothing new. We've seen everything from hard rocker Bret Michaels becoming the face of ADA's Stop Diabetes campaign, to American Idol judge Randy Jackson teaming up with Merck, to last year's video campaign by actress Elizabeth Perkins that involved a diabetes documentary focusing on "co-stars," all the way to the controversial Paula Deen becoming a celebrity-endorser of diabetes drug Victoza.
But this effort feels a bit different -- in that it seems to cross the boundaries between types of diabetes, and also weaves in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) in a way that seems new and unique. The main online hub for T2 Dance Crew is an existing online patient-populated network, DiabeticConnect (part of the 'Mine's former parent company Alliance Health Networks) and there you can find the dance videos, a list of all the upcoming local in-person dance events, and a Q&A conducted by Diabetes Hands Foundation founder Manny Hernandez with Dr. Richard Aguilar, medical director of non-profit Diabetes Nation, a program aimed fostering collaboration among diabetes doctors to promote better care.
Debbie Allen tells us the reaction's been great so far; she heard that in just over three weeks, the T2 Dance Crew site at Diabetic Connect hit more than 700,000 pageviews. And she's often getting stopped out on the road by people talking about how they're dancing it up to help manage their diabetes -- while getting healthy and having some fun.
"That's what we're looking at doing -- mixing those two together," she says. "This is generating a lot of energy and we're penetrating the audience that we want to get to."
One of the program partners is esteemed CDE and dance-fanatic Theresa Garnerno, who founded Dance Out Diabetes in San Francisco several years ago. She adds:
"It's exciting to watch our 'dancing for the health of it' efforts grow with the T2 Dance Crew program now reaching out to other communities. The benefit is in helping to engage and inspire others to use the most underutilized way to manage this disease: physical activity! Besides, dancing to great music is a nice way to get in exercise with a side effect of fun."
Theresa tells us that at the American Diabetes Association's Scientific Sessions coming up in San Francisco the second week of June, she'll provide an update on her Dance Out Diabetes program during a T2 Dance Crew evening event on June 15.
There are also a handful of local T2 Dance Crew events planned around the country where you can get beginner lessons on salsa and hip-hop dancing along with on-site health clinic tracking by CDEs and educational resources to manage your diabetes. As of now, there's a class set for Miami on June 7, New York City on July 19, and a yet-to-be-scheduled event coming soon in Houston.
Allen says smaller in-person dance events are also being scheduled in spots where she's traveling, including for appearances on her premiering production of Brothers of the Knight (a new dance adaptation of the classic Brother's Grimm tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses). The hope is to expand these T2 Dance Crew events to places like Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Charlotte as soon as possible.
And the TV star and dancing queen says it's certainly on her mind to talk with the So You Think You Can Dance show decision-makers about possibly plugging the T2 Dance Crew campaign or even D-awareness into the show, which could be an incredible way to reach millions of people who tune into that show each week.
And rest assured: there's solid science is behind this D-dancing movement. Based on research, the ADA recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days a week, and a study by Theresa Garnero that evaluated PWDs involved in a monthly cultural dance program found that most participants who kept up their dance regime reduced or maintained body weight, blood pressure and A1C.
"This is an evolving campaign, so who knows what we may get?" Allen said, adding that even more celebrity dancing stars could come on board in the future. "We shouldn't be static -- the world is always moving, so being in motion is how we need to be. This is a natural process."
We couldn't agree more, and think that this T2 Dance Crew -- despite the name focusing on type 2 -- has the potential to raise public awareness about diabetes in general, and encourage both kids and adults to add more activity into their daily routines.
It just seems like a positive force, and seems to have great synergy with DOC-led efforts like the Big Blue Test every Fall, when our Diabetes Online Community lights up in support of physical activity as a way to improve our own health and also impact change and public awareness. Plus the theme for World Diabetes Day 2014 is about making cities healthier, so a dance-related initiative in local settings could be a perfect way to drive that home. Just imagine: dancing flash mobs weaving WDD and dancing into one cool D-meetup!
And finally, in case you didn't get the memo, May is actually National Physical Fitness and Sport Month, and there's still time to check out those efforts via the hashtag #MoveInMay and get your dance action on!
I'm no pro dancer myself (though years ago we took some entry ballroom dancing lessons for our wedding), but I'm not opposed to doing a little amateur booty-moving during the day at home (when no one's watching), because who knows...? A little moving and shaking could do wonders for my own blood sugar levels, I'm sure!