With increased awareness of diabetes in all its forms, more funding, compassion, and innovation will follow.
Would you rather have $1.6 million or $123 million ? Which would make a bigger impact in your life?
Personally, I’d rather have $123 million, and I’m betting you would say the same.
Think of the impact that could be made with that amount of money. You could pay off your student loans, mortgage, and car payment. You could afford the best of the best when it comes to healthcare, food, and experiences.
What would be louder? A crowd of 1.6 million people or 123 million?
Of course, 123 million people would be louder.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), approximately 1.6 million people in the United States live with type 1 diabetes, 34 million people live with type 2 diabetes, and more than 88 million people have prediabetes.
In total, that makes 123 million Americans who are affected by this disease in one form or another.
Do you think we can make more of an impact as a community of 1.6 million people or 123 million?
There are so many factors that contribute to our ability to prevent and manage diabetes in the United States, including access to healthcare and lifesaving medications like insulin, access to healthy foods, finding time to exercise, and so much more.
As a community, we also have a branding problem.
The pink ribbon was introduced for breast cancer awareness in 1991. While its initial debut made quite the splash (and there has been a lot of controversy surrounding its use), it took roughly 15 years before the world took notice.
We now see the pink ribbon everywhere come October.
If the diabetes community is following the same trajectory for awareness as the breast cancer community, things are about to get interesting: 2021 marks 15 years since the blue circle was introduced by the International Diabetes Federation.
Kris Maynard, who lives with type 1 diabetes, is a firefighter and EMT who founded Glucose Revival as a solution to an all too common problem: people with diabetes experiencing low blood sugar levels.
Following the recommendations from the ADA, Glucose Revival makes a necklace that contains 15 grams of quick-acting glucose that’s easy to carry, find, and use. It’s similar to what EMTs administer daily to people experiencing low blood sugar emergencies.
Maynard is a passionate advocate for uniting the diabetes community. Recently, he approached some of the largest type 1 and type 2 diabetes nonprofit organizations with the idea of adding the blue circle around their logos so that people with diabetes — and the world — can recognize the blue circle as a symbol of diabetes.
“These organizations have incredible influence, which is a key factor in helping us get the message to our legislators, and they don’t realize that yet,” he says. “They don’t recognize the power of unity, the power of simplicity, and the power of what the blue circle can bring to the world.”
While the top diabetes organizations might not be ready for a rebranding, Maynard is making strides in his local community.
Last November, he asked local landmarks in his community, like the Spokane Pavilion and Steam Plant, to light up blue for American Diabetes Month. Much to his delight, they obliged.
With increased awareness of the disease in all its forms, more funding, compassion, and innovation will follow. To get people to care about this disease, we have to share the stories of the people living with it.
Erik Douds is an endurance athlete living with type 1 diabetes, an adventure filmmaker, and the founder of Diabadass, an education platform where people with diabetes can learn from others living with the disease.
“The main reason I make films is to show what life is like with an invisible disease,” Douds says.
“I’ve stayed in the homes of over 60 people living with T1D and visited the technology companies and organizations that make this community. Eventually, I discovered it is the people who have become friends that I learn from the most, which is why I started Diabadass.”
Douds is no stranger to roadblocks in his efforts to unite the community, and he says the greatest challenge to unity is when the community loses trust in leadership.
“When the community sees themselves at the table, in the truest sense, I think we will see greater collaboration and inspiration for us to all unite,” Douds says.
“As a creator in the space, my greatest challenge is finding investments in storytelling to share the incredible work being done, alongside the stories that need to be felt in the hearts and minds of leaders outside our space,” he says.
In addition to encouraging your favorite diabetes organizations to recognize the blue circle and inviting local landmarks to illuminate with blue lights, both Maynard and Douds call for people to recognize our similarities instead of focusing on our differences.
Douds recommends researching the stereotypes of any types of diabetes to become a better ally for others.
“While each type is different, focusing on everything that separates us blinds us from finding our closest allies,” he says.
“I hear a lot of comparisons between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as if one is worse than the other,” he says. “But I have never met anyone with diabetes who wants to have diabetes, so at the very least, we have that much in common.”
Sydney Williams is an adventure athlete and author based in San Diego, California. Her work explores how trauma manifests in our minds and bodies, and how the outdoors can help us heal. Sydney is the founder of Hiking My Feelings, a nonprofit organization on a mission to improve community health by creating opportunities for people to experience the healing power of nature. Join the Hiking My Feelings Family, and follow along on YouTube and Instagram.