When the Powers That Be established National Diabetes Awareness Month, I'm guessing they had the millions of at-risk and yet-undiagnosed Type 2s in this country in mind. That's an estimated 6.2 million people in the latter category alone. And then of course, there's the public at large: How aware are they of truth vs. myth about this pervasive disease? For a condition that effects 7% of the American population, it's just astonishing how much misinformation is afloat.
Of course it begins with the whole Type 1 versus Type 2 issue. Despite the cursory explanation offered on most web sites and other official sources, how many people do you know personally who can really explain the difference?
Last week, a reader here posed a contentious question: Is it possible that the World Diabetes Day campaign this month does Type 1 diabetics "a disservice by lumping them in with Type 2's?" The commenter adds: "God only knows how many mothers of children with Type 1 get blamed every day for 'causing their child to get diabetes.'"
You can't help wondering if she might have a point.
Otherwise, why would the JDRF be investing a chunk of its awareness campaign dollars this year into creating a "series of materials" to educate the public about the difference between Type 1 and Type 2? (This according to the group's VP of Strategic Communications, William Ahearn). The JDRF's stated mission is to "find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research." In the interim, they're looking to improve the lives of PWDs -- presumably primarily Type 1s -- and public confusion about the two types of diabetes ain't makin' our lives any easier, is it now?
"The actress was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes after she passed out while shooting a TV show called 'Living Dolls' when she first arrived in Hollywood. But the disease has now dropped to Type 2 diabetes because Berry is no longer 'insulin dependent.' She says, 'I've managed to wean myself off insulin, so now I like to put myself in the Type 2 category.'" WtF? I hope the JDRF bombards her with campaign materials. See Kassie's Open Letter imploring Berry "not to discuss her pancreas with the press." Thanks, Kassie. Geezus.
Meanwhile, is the gargantuan World Diabetes Day campaign contributing to the Type-2-heavy view of "the diabetes burden" around the world? Probably. But hopefully it's still doing more good than harm. We are, after all, all up against a common enemy: complications and death. Ugh. If lighting up over 100 iconic buildings around the world in blue on Nov.14 lights up enough hearts and minds to save a few hundreds of lives at least, I'm all for it.
In a related bulletin, new JDRF-backed research has discovered that some children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes under the age of 6 months don't have diabetes at all. Instead, they may have a rare genetic mutation that mirrors Type 1 diabetes -- a form of monogenic diabetes. This can be detected through a simple blood test, and treated with simple oral medications. Ahearn says the JDRF is "very cautious" about creating false hope among parents, but if your child was diagnosed at 6 months or younger, find out about getting tested HERE.