‘Don’t you ever get tired of talking about diabetes?’ I get asked this quite a lot. And I can see why. There is a lot of diabetes in my life, and I do speak about it frequently.
The truth is that I don’t get tired talking about diabetes. I get tired talking about my diabetes, but the subject of diabetes is one of which I never tire. Diabetes is too hard for too many people – for all sorts of reasons – and until that is not the case, there is too much to do. Being tired or bored is not an option!
Advocacy can be a broad term. It can refer to political process, influencing policy change or promoting people’s rights and responsibilities. It can also be about raising awareness. It can be small or large scale. It can be about groups or individuals.
Advocating for self can be tiring. Often the times we need to be our biggest campaigners and put in the most effort are the times when it is the most difficult. Standing up to hospital staff who want to strip us of our right to manage our own self-managed condition is all good and well and we can get all assertive and angry about it and talk about what we would do if it happened to us. But that moment when we are actually in A&E for an accident or emergency situation, actually standing up for our self may simply be just too hard. Or impossible.
I know that my advocacy energies are different when I am feeling ‘over’ my diabetes. I tend to sit back a little more and not put myself out there so much. And I look for what others are doing and turn my attention and focus to that. It’s kind of like advocacy-by-proxy!
That’s why larger scale advocacy is really important. Big awareness raising campaigns are important – sometimes there is an ask (such as more funding or increased attention to the condition). Other times it’s just to inform people about the state of diabetes affairs.
A lot of the time, it’s not all huge and loud with lots of media coverage – often there are behind the scenes machinations that take a terribly long time, are terribly boring and involve a lot of bureaucracy and paper-pushing. (One great example of that is the three-year-long battle that has been trying to fix the mess up of introducing a ridiculous definition of ‘satisfactory control of diabetes’ in the current Assessing Fitness to Drive guidelines. The revised guidelines are up for public consultation at the moment and I am thrilled to see that the 9% A1c measure has been removed. These advocacy efforts undertaken by a number of Diabetes Australia staff – myself included – will be of significant benefit to people with diabetes holding a driver’s licence. Blog post to come soon.)
Advocacy doesn’t have to hit you over the head. It doesn’t need to be angry and aggressive. It is great when it is innovative and challenging. And it is okay if it makes you feel uncomfortable. In fact, sometimes we want things to be confronting and a little prickly as that can be a catalyst for people start to think and act.
So, a couple of things I thought I’d mention that tick a lot of advocacy boxes.
Today, Kelly Kunik launched the I Wish People Knew That Diabetes website following a hugely successful awareness-raising campaign back in April this year. Go have a look at the site and explore what she has to say.
Festival21 is being held in Melbourne on Friday 11 December. Sandro Demaio’s advocacy efforts are significant for many reasons, one of which is just how innovative and ground-breaking they are. The aim of this initiative is to address some of our most considerable social challenges, including sustainability, promoting healthy communities and climate change, with food as the central topic. To give you an idea of what Festiva21 has in store, this from Sandro in today’s online newspaper, Broadsheet, ‘We’re talking about empowering people to realise that the food on their plate is one of the most powerful tools they have for change. Food is a truly unifying factor across all schools of thought – politics, religion and race. Everyone loves food and everyone loves to eat.’