Happy Diabetes Alert Day!
OK, so maybe this isn't a real holiday or even close to as big as marking an entire month for "diabetes awareness" every November. But each year on the 4th Tuesday of March, we find the American Diabetes Association holding its one-day "wake-up call" to encourage Americans to take the Diabetes Risk Test -- a simple but powerful seven-question online survey aimed at determining one's risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Last year, more than 39,000 people took the Risk Test during March, and 37% of those people learned that they were at high risk for developing T2D, giving them the opportunity to take positive proactive steps now. The ADA hopes to expand its efforts for 2014. Just like last year, delicatessen company Boar's Head will donate $5 to ADA for every test taken between March 25 and April 25, up to a total contribution of $50,000. You can check out the details at the ADA's Stop Diabetes webpage and Facebook page.
New this year is the tagline "Take it. Share it. Step Out," implying that folks should not only take the risk test and tell others about it, but start getting more physically active. Of course, ADA is also using that tagline for its own Step Out walks held throughout the country. Nice cross promotion there, ADA!
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This year, there's another repeat performance of D-awareness building that coincides with the ADA's push for D-Alert Day: Southern rapper Lil Jon, whose real name is Jonathan Smith and became an ADA celebrity advocate after his mom's death last year from a type 2 diabetes-related stroke, is now in his second year of boosting public awareness about the condition.
With his signature dreadlocks and "Crunk Rock" style -- featuring lyrics peppered with F-bombs and the like -- Lil Jon may seem like an odd choice to represent the generally conservative ADA. But then again, they've worked with Poison rockstar Bret Michaels as well, and are clearly hoping to catch the attention of more young adults nationwide.
We were fortunate to have a chat with ADA spokeswoman Anna Baker last week for an inside look at how the ADA views Lil Jon's efforts to raise D-awareness.
Many may remember Lil Jon's two-time appearances on Celebrity Apprentice in 2011 and 2013. Between those two seasons, his mom had a stroke and that prompted him to start learning about more about his mother's disease, that he'd previously known nothing about. That led to making his ADA charity of choice for his next appearance in 2013 for an All-Star version of the show. And while Lil Jon didn't make the final cut to win the apprenticeship, he raised $195,000 for the diabetes organization last year. Sadly, his mom died from diabetes complications last year as well.
Most recently on March 4, Lil Jon did a guest spot on the new NBC comedy About A Boy, where he hosted a charity pool party for diabetes awareness. On the show, there was an unexpected line where one of the characters chimed in with, "Diabetes is awesome!," followed by some amused but confused looks by Lil Jon and the rest of the cast...
DM) Given his stance as a badass rapper, has working with Lil Jon created any kind of conflict for ADA, or has anyone complained?
ADA) We have not received any negative feedback from our constituents—in fact, only positive. Through channels such as social media and our 2013 Community Volunteer Leadership Conference, people have expressed sincere condolences for the loss of his mother to type 2 diabetes complications. They have also thanked him for using his celebrity to bring attention to the diabetes cause and help raise funds for the ADA.
As you know, he chose the Association as his charity of choice during his appearance on "Celebrity Apprentice," which raised $195,000 to put toward our mission to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.
He's getting the word out about the seriousness of the disease and that education is important.
What kind of reaction did you see to his most recent March 4 appearance on "About a Boy"?
The response was naturally not as big as when he appeared on "All-Star Celebrity Apprentice," but still positive. We were actually told about his appearance after it was taped, right before the episode aired. So while the timing of Lil Jon's appearance on the show was a coincidence, it was particularly nice to spread diabetes awareness right before our annual Alert Day. That Lil Jon's message was met with humor ("Diabetes is awesome!") seems to have resonated with the show's audience -- "About a Boy" is, after all, a comedy. At the same time, Lil Jon's serious reaction to that comment balanced out the humor and underscored the seriousness of the disease.
What's he doing specifically to raise awareness about D-Alert Day, the Risk Test, and beyond?
As a Stop Diabetes Ambassador, Lil Jon has agreed to do ongoing promotions of our awareness programs, including Alert Day today, and American Diabetes Month in November. He'll also be doing an online fundraising campaign for us and making some appearances on our behalf later in 2014. These have not been confirmed yet, but you can follow Lil Jon's efforts at the Stop Diabetes website.
Lil Jon isn't your first music celebrity advocate... how have others helped raise awareness?
With their recurring appearances on "Celebrity Apprentice," Bret Michaels and Lil Jon have certainly been among the most visible celebrities advocating for diabetes awareness on television -- though again, this has never been specifically tied to Alert Day. Our celebrities reach the public in many ways, and television is just one of them.
What about other celebrities, like Tom Hanks who recently shared that he's living with type 2?
Tom Hanks' recent diagnosis has brought much attention to type 2 diabetes, and we are exploring ways to possibly engage him.
We certainly appreciate what ADA is doing to make more of the general public aware of the seriousness of diabetes. Thank you for that!
Of course, D-Alert Day makes us think about the bigger picture of D-awareness, beyond just risk of type 2. What not make this day about raising awareness on ALL TYPES of diabetes? That's where we can all play a part. Here are a few things any PWD can do to "Make This Day Our Own":
- For those who already have diabetes, consider this "Tell-A-Friend Day." Talk to someone in your life about what it's like to live with diabetes — ideally someone who doesn't yet know the basics, like the difference between type 1 and type 2. If everybody "told two friends and they told two friends," we could do a lot towards educating people. I'm going to reach out in the name of Diabetes Advocacy.
- Make a donation, whether it's just a few dollars or a large chunk. Maybe today's a good day to go to the the Diabetes Hands Foundation, Diabetes Research Institute, JDRF, ADA or any other D-charity and show our support.
- And of course it's a great time to Do Our Part when it comes to contacting Congress and other authorities on a handful of policy issues -- like commenting to the FDA about how glucose meter accuracy is important to us, or as we mentioned yesterday, on Medicare coverage for diabetes necessities.
- Do something "mentor-ish," which can be accomplished by checking with local chapters of the ADA or JDRF, or even a local diabetes education center. Sometimes Children's Hospitals or endo offices have these types of programs set up and are always in need of more help. The idea is to help somebody new to this whole "Living With Diabetes" thing, to share what you've been through and help them gain a sense of normalcy.
- And people can assess their risk of type 1 diabetes, too: relatives of those living with T1 can get screened for potential risk through TrialNet. If someone is at high risk, he or she may be able to enroll in an intervention study. For increased screening, we can also encourage pediatrians to do a simple blood test for all kids who come into the office with classic symptoms that might just look like a case of the flu.