November is diabetes awareness month. My Facebook feed is full of helpful informative facts and personal journeys designed to raise awareness on the detection and management of Diabetes. So, I thought it would only be appropriate that I commented.
This November, I would like to raise awareness for tolerance and empathy amongst our own community. In Australia, collectively, there are over 2 million people living with diabetes. Of this, around 80% have Type 2, 10% Type 1 and the remaining 10% have unspecified diabetes.
The rates of diagnoses of all types of diabetes are rising – including gestational diabetes. Yet our access to services and technology and adequate self-management tools is decreasing.
I live with Type 1 diabetes. Every day I come face to face with other people with diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2. Each individual has a personal story that profoundly influences their ability to manage this condition on an everyday basis. And each person has experienced some degree of hardship professionally, personally, medically or financially that has impacted how they manage their diabetes and how they access services and supplies.
Currently, issues of accessibility affect us all. As Type 1’s we fight for access to technology, funding and specialist teams to help us manage our disease. We aim to eliminate the stigma surrounding Type 1 diabetes and the misunderstanding that Type 1 diabetes is defined only by our blood glucose levels.
People with Type 2 diabetes are also fighting for access. Currently a newly diagnosed person with Type 2 can only access government rebated blood glucose strips for 6 months without approval from their GP. They are fighting to eliminate the stigma that implies Type 2 is preventable solely by “eating less and exercising more” and the misunderstanding that Type 2 diabetes is defined only by blood glucose levels.
Look at the two side by side and you would say we are advocating for the same thing? Then why is it that when it comes to fighting for better access and better lives are we are so divided? Why is it that after years of advocating we are still not a whole lot further ahead?
I think a contributing factor is that we, as a community are divided. In my opinion, we are so busy fighting for our own “type” and advocating for better understanding of our own diabetes within the community that we have forgotten to take the time to understand the plight of other people living with diabetes. People with Type 2 diabetes have a poor understanding of Type 1 diabetes (often labelled “the bad one”) and Type 1’s are often too busy being frustrated at the misunderstanding and confusion between the two that they don’t truly understand that Type 2 diabetes is not a disease reserved only for the “fat and lazy”.
How, if we don’t have the understanding and empathy for other people living with diabetes, can we expect change? How can we expect empathy, understanding and better access on a whole community level if we are fighting for our own agendas rather than the bigger picture?
If we as a community do not start uniting and banding together as one, we will never get change. If we don’t unite, policy and accessibility to supplies and technology will never improve; we will continue to fight for services; and misunderstanding and stigma will continue. We are essentially fighting for the same thing – a fair go and an opportunity at a better life. No one deserves this more than the next person. We all deserve it.
Progress starts with us. ALL of us want a cure.
Not one person asks for diabetes. Everyone has a story that impacts how they manage or how they don’t manage their condition. And no one has the right to label another person based on stigma, misunderstanding or misconception, least of all within our own community.
It is time to band together as a whole population – put our beliefs, misconceptions and our own judgements aside, embrace all people living with diabetes, and invoke change for the better.
Imagine…… If our whole diabetes community came together to advocate for CGM funding this past election rather than just 10% of our population, would the push have been stronger? Would the funding have been more generous? We will never know. Likewise, if we all advocated for access to test strips for all people living with diabetes is it possible this would not have been passed? Doesn’t everybody deserve the opportunity to understand their own diabetes? Let’s set the standard. All people with diabetes matter. All people with diabetes deserve support and all people with diabetes deserve a cure.