Welcome to another (hopefully blue-colored) World Diabetes Day!
First added to the calendar back in 1991, this annual observation was of course placed on this particular day thanks to its historical D-significance as the birthday of the co-creator of insulin, Dr. Frederick Banting, who was born on Nov. 14, 1891 — and would be celebrating his 123rd birthday if we were alive today!
Today, we are wearing blue and also tuning in for this year's WDD DOC chat on Twitter that is going on all 24 hours -- and we'll actually be taking a turn at hosting the chat ourselves from 1-2p ET to talk about Unity in Diabetes. So be sure follow along at the hashtag #WDDChat14.
What we're most excited about today is a new surge in interest and activity around taking a more global perspective on diabetes, combating the sentiment lately that World Diabetes Day may have gotten a little stale, losing some of the original meaning and energy. So, two new initiatives are working to do something about that.
Both are pretty interesting grassroots efforts, and they each deserve a post all on their own. So we'll be covering each in a separate post, publishing TWICE today for this special 2014 WDD Blue Friday. Be sure to check back later today for the second half of the coverage on these great global initiatives!
First up is a new effort focused on type 2 awareness and spurring global advocacy, to the extent of... (wait for it)... obtaining statehood for diabetes! Yes, that would mean officially having a country somewhere called Diabetes, as part of the United Nations!
I know what you're thinking: #DiabetesNation, anyone? Why, yes! Check out this video PSA.
Launching today, the new campaign is called State of Diabetes, created as a pro bono goodwill project by a New York healthcare marketing company known as Area 23. The idea is to follow in the footsteps of the IDF and the UN Resolution it helped get adopted in 2005, the first time the Nations had recognized diabetes as a priority, and marking the establishment of World Diabetes Day. Now, Area 23 sees how we have 343 million people worldwide with type 2 and it's time to do something more -- specifically, pursue statehood where diabetes would actually be designated as an official country by the UN. Whoa! And aside from the statehood petition, the plan is to film a documentary of this whole process to help raise awareness about type 2 globally.
We at the 'Mine are excited to join with several of our friends in the D-Community who've signed on in support, including diaTribe, Diabetes Daily, SixUntilMe, Scott's Diabetes, TCOYD, Diabetes Hands Foundation, Diabetes Community Advocacy Foundation, and likely more to come. It's truly a community collaboration and we're happy to be a part of it.
We were able to connect with Area 23's creative marketing execs Tim Hawkey and Andy Gerchak about this campaign, and here's the tell-all Q&A with the pair:
DM) First, we'd like to know more about who's behind this. Give us an intro to Area 23? And are your pharma clients involved?
A23) We're a healthcare marketing agency in Midtown Manhattan. We're currently 150 employees strong across departments, and are proud to say we were recently named 2014 Mid-Size Agency of the Year. The majority of our work is related to specific medications across a range of categories (everything from type 2 diabetes to rare subtypes of lung cancer), but we also contribute alongside advocacy groups to make an impact in health issues. While we do currently help market medications for people with type 2 diabetes, The State of Diabetes initiative is separated from those efforts. Though we'd welcome support from anyone, our pharmaceutical clients are currently not involved.
But this isn't about Area 23. This is an extra project for all of us involved—it's something beyond our "day jobs"—but it's one we're passionate about. We consider this an opportunity to donate our skills and resources to help make a difference.
What's this campaign about?
We're actually going to petition for statehood. There are 4 qualifications we have to meet. Once we meet them, it's as simple as submitting a letter to the Secretary General of the UN. After that, its up to them to say yes or no. Either way we would consider it a win -- since the goal is to raise awareness of the scope and the severity of this global issue.
Publicizing the initiative is a very important first step. From there, we want to continue to muster support of grassroots patient organizations and especially to gain some international voices for the cause. From there we will choose a documentary filmmaker who can follow along the process as we seek to meet the qualifications for statehood. And at each step of the way -- whether we're talking to bloggers or Prime Ministers—we're raising awareness of the fact that when so many people have type 2 diabetes, it's everyone's concern.
Can you share specifics about the documentary film?
Filming is still to be decided. We are launching a Kickstarter (fundraising campaign) for the documentary itself. It won't determine whether there is a documentary—we're going full-force with our efforts and with a documentary regardless—but it will help us bring in a higher quality to the finished product. If we have to, we'll film it ourselves. But we'd love to be able to bring in an experienced filmmaker.
We are planning on releasing it in chapters, as well as providing behind-the-scenes updates on our progress with the initiative itself.
How did this idea come about?
We regularly challenge ourselves to look outside what we're doing in our day-to-day jobs and see where we can go beyond, where we can make a difference.
We're right around the corner from the UN, and we actually were thinking about the 2005 UN resolution that the IDF helped to pass. To get that kind of recognition for a noncommunicable disease was really remarkable.
But type 2 diabetes is still on the rise. And we couldn't find the word "diabetes" anywhere in the current (UN) Secretary General's plans. So we wanted to reinvigorate that conversation and build off of the work the community has already done, and then help it cross over into the general public. It was clear that this was something that deserved more than just a day of recognition from the UN, so we're trying to expand that.
But seriously, a country of diabetes...?!
What's so exciting about this initiative, is that the end result isn't really about the end result. We won't measure success against whether The State of Diabetes is granted membership status for the General Assembly -- let's be honest, getting a two-thirds vote of approval is a incalculable long shot... to say the least. But our goal is to raise international awareness and make the international community come to grips with the state of diabetes today, and the fact that it's something that affects us all. Every step of the way, we're highlighting the problem, we're educating, and we're making people talk about it. Even if the door is repeatedly shut in our faces, it proves the point that the world isn't giving this condition the priority it deserves. And we think that increased awareness and dialog is exactly what success looks like.
What does the timeline look like on this?
This is a year-long effort. Next year we plan to submit our application for admission into the United Nations for their General Assembly. And we see World Diabetes Day 2015 as the close of that chapter.
Has anything like this been done, in terms of other health conditions? If so, what can you learn from those examples?
We believe it's the first of its kind. As to why that is, you'd have to ask someone else. For us, we think that if you're in a situation where you find yourself thinking or saying "Hey wouldn't it be great if somebody did 'X'?" -- then maybe you're that somebody, so do it.
How have past IDF efforts, like the UN resolution and the Blue Circle adoption, influenced this initiative?
As we said, that IDF-driven UN resolution was a starting point for us. We can't stress enough what an achievement that was.
But looking back on any of the resolutions the UN passed in 2005—not just about diabetes, but take a look at resolutions on general world affairs from 2005—we think time demonstrates that a resolution is not the end to something, or the ultimate achievement. It's an important step, but one that needs consistent follow-up.
Does this effort overlap with some of what's already being done, as far as global awareness about diabetes?
In terms of raising awareness about diabetes worldwide, sure, there is overlap. But we don't see that as a bad thing. It just means we have common goals. The more voices there are, the greater the chance that the world hears and listens.
We have spoken with the IDF, and have reached out to some of its member groups overseas. We'd love to work with them directly in the future, but we're satisfied working on the same side.
Why only focus on type 2?
We consider type 2 diabetes a global epidemic that is on the rise, and that's what we're trying to focus on. It accounts for 90%-95% of total diabetes diagnoses. It's certainly a complex condition with both genetic and behavioral factors—but at the core, nearly every person on this planet has some risk of type 2 diabetes.
There was a note in the marketing materials about how obese the West Virginia population is -- doesn't this play into the misconceptions about type 2s being at fault?
Diet and exercise certainly play a part in type 2 diabetes, but there is no doubt that there are those who are genetically predisposed and that it significantly increases overall risk. We're not saying that people who have been diagnosed with diabetes are all overweight, but we do believe that people who are overweight are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. We want to talk to some of those communities with a high overweight population and see what can be done locally to curb that trend. Type 2 diabetes affects people from all walks of life -- busy professionals, retirees, you name it. But for some people these things like diet and exercise, which are considered "lifestyle choices," aren't really choices.
It is getting harder and harder, and more and more expensive, to take better care of ourselves. This is especially true in "developing nations," where the influx of global products tends to skew toward cheaper and less healthy foods. And we think that certainly plays a major role -- though not the only role -- in the rising incidence of type 2 diabetes.
What can our D-Community do to get involved?
The more we can all continue the dialog, and move it to the front of the international conversation, the stronger the overall community of people with diabetes will be. We're looking for help getting the word out. We're asking our partner organizations to use their networks and influence to keep pushing this forward and to higher levels.
We started this initiative by cold-calling international governments and both large and localized advocacy organizations around the world. You can imagine how some of those conversations went. "Wait, I'm sorry. You want to do what? Who are you?" And that's in the cases we could actually get through and speak to someone.
Having the support of such respected and wide-reaching grassroots organizations as our partners enables other groups to see this is a serious and united effort. And we hope more groups come into the fold.
And the greater the awareness, the more people will be encouraged to visit TheStateOfDiabetes.org and sign the petition. And the more signatures we have, the more we can show a united front to the world. Our hope is that anyone reading this signs the petition and continues to add to the momentum.
The State of Diabetes isn't our initiative. It belongs to the whole diabetes community, and we're grateful to be a part of it.
What a great effort targeting such a huge issue!
Meanwhile, don't forget to stop by the 'Mine later today to see our second 2014 WDD post about another way that our D-Community is pushing to put the "world" back into World Diabetes Day.