Prevention Through Education

Prevention Through Education

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), there are 23.6 million people in the United States who have diabetes. That is equal to 8% of the U.S. population. The total prevalence of diabetes increased 13.5% from 2005 to 2007, according to the ADA. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) plan to increase knowledge and prevention of diabetes through IDF’s World Diabetes Day (WDD) on November 14. Since 1991, the WDD campaign has raised awareness and improved knowledge on the proper management and prevention of diabetes.

Goals of the campaign

The IDF has set four goals that will drive the campaign over the next 5 years, according to Phil Riley, communications manager for IDF. First, every individual with diabetes should receive evidenced-based education to help them manage their diabetes. Second, the WDD campaign will educate everyone on the warning signs of diabetes, how to prevent or delay the complications and what action to take to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Third, the campaign aims to have every government implement effective strategies and policies for the prevention and management of diabetes. Finally, the campaign set a goal to have every country celebrate WDD within the next 5 years.

“We want to raise awareness of the diabetes epidemic; advocate that governments improve treatment and care for diabetes patients and empower people with diabetes to live longer, healthier lives,” Riley told O&P Business News.

In order to make these goals a reality, IDF is calling upon the diabetes community to take action. Last year’s campaign, which was dedicated to diabetes in children and adolescents, registered 1647 events in a total of 115 countries worldwide.

“We work hard to increase participation in the campaign and have seen a significant expansion in grass roots activism,” Riley said.

Campaign cornerstones

The signature logo of WDD is a blue circle. According to the WDD Web site, the blue circle “signifies the unity of the global diabetes community in response to the diabetes pandemic.” The logo was adopted in 2007 to mark the passage of the United Nations World Diabetes Day Resolution. The resolution recognized WDD as an official United Nations day.

“We wanted to find a simple way to rally people behind a common cause,” Riley said. “We had a good unifying goal but we felt that we needed a symbol to support that goal.”

Another staple of WDD is the lighting of monuments across the world. In 2008, 1,107 monuments were lit in blue to raise awareness and mark WDD. From the Sphinx in Egypt to Boat House Row in Philadelphia, historical monuments lit the night sky in blue. Ninety-nine countries participated in the monument lighting in 2008. WDD officials challenged participants to beat last year’s record number of participating monuments. Riley is anticipating similar success and will not be surprised if last year’s total is surpassed.

“Last year, we hoped for 500 monuments and thought that was a fairly challenging goal, it always starts at about 6 weeks out and then quickly builds as we get closer to November 14, so we can never really predict [participation,]” Riley said.

While the logo and the lighting of monuments are cornerstones of WDD, Riley’s communications and marketing team are always looking for improvements. Building on their successes in social media, the IDF has increased outreach and strived for greater integration.

“We try to bring in something new every year, particularly in terms of building the online component for the campaign,” Riley said. “This year we constructed a virtual museum that can house diabetes-relevant materials that we hope will serve to engage the diabetes community and inspire action.”

Monument Monument
Last year, more than 1100 monuments were lit in blue to raise awareness. IDF officials hope to topple that record in 2009.
All images reprinted with permission of the International Diabetes Federation.

Empowerment through education

According to Riley, WDD aims to empower people with and the general public through education. If an individual is diagnosed with diabetes, proper management is crucial to long-term health. People with diabetes and their families need to educate themselves on the multitude of decisions related to managing diabetes.

“Poor management will result in poor health results and an increased likelihood of developing diabetes complications such as loss of vision, insensitivity that can lead to amputation, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke, thus increasing the economic burden to the patient, their family and the community,” Riley said.

The IDF has made education central to the WDD campaign. Patients have the ability to live long and healthy lives with diabetes, they just need to know how.

Health care professionals must contribute to improving knowledge so evidenced-based recommendations can be put into practice. Riley noted the factors that are out of an individual’s control regarding diabetes prevention such as family history, age and belonging to a certain ethnic group. However, an individual has the ability to eat healthier, exercise regularly and make annual trips to the doctor. These are just some of the ways to prevent diabetes.

The campaign also intends to empower governments to implement effective strategies and policies for the prevention and management of diabetes.

A common cause

“It is a pleasure to open my inbox in the morning to tales of how invigorated people are by the campaign,” Riley said. “They range from very personal acts that mark the day and raise awareness among family and friends to lighting the tallest monument for miles around.”

Riley noted that all of the e-mail he reads have one common tie that binds people from across the world – commitment.

“So often it is the unrelenting efforts of one, two or a small group of volunteers that want to see improvements to diabetes care and to help people take diabetes seriously,” Riley said.

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Anthony Calabro is a staff reporter for O&P Business News.

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