There are some days that I just wish I didn’t open the newspaper. This is one of them. On the front page of one of the sections of today’s The Age in Melbourne I was greeted with The Diabetes Time Bomb. Making sure that I wasn’t in fact ticking, or that I didn’t need to call in the Bomb Squad to evacuate the building as they worked out whether to cut the red or blue wire, I continued reading the article.

So glad I did. Going blind. Getting your leg cut off. Kidneys packing up. Dying of a heart attack. The implications of being diagnosed with diabetes are shocking.’

They were the first words in this article. I nearly stopped right there. But, I kept reading, lured by the topic of diabetes. The thing is, the remainder of the article is really well written. It draws readers’ attention to the fact that there are increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and it is being diagnosed in younger and younger people. It’s factual; it includes quotes from several experts using evidence-based information and there is an excellent case study.

But starting an article about diabetes with a shopping list of scary complications is alarmist and pointless. There is no context offered, no explanation of what they mean, no statistics and no concern shown for those of us living with diabetes every day. It’s damaging, inconsiderate and irresponsible reporting.

The Diabetes MILES study showed that 33 per cent of people with diabetes worry about the future and the possibility of serious complications. The authors tell me it is consistently the foremost concern of people with diabetes. Reading an article like this does nothing to reduce that distress and everything to accentuate it. Nor does it provide truthful and balanced information about diabetes complications. They are not inevitable. A 30 year old with type 1 diabetes has an 88% chance of still having good vision at age 60, and with newer treatments, chances are even better.

And for people without diabetes, why would they want to keep reading? There is nothing positive in a list that includes threats of blindness, amputation, dialysis and death. Head. Sand. La la la, not listening!

I am not saying sugar-coat it (pardon the pun!), I’m really not. Diabetes is serious, the statistics are scary, the costs are prohibitive – and we do need to address these problems now. We need strategies in place to prevent type 2 diabetes in those at high risk and, for people already diagnosed with all types of diabetes, to reduce the risk of developing diabetes complications. We need the Government (whoever that might be in 6 weeks’ time!) to adopt a coordinated national diabetes strategy and fund programs to address the issues.

And we need the media to highlight these issues. We need their reach.

But can it be done by focusing on the facts and what needs to be done? Keep interviewing the professional experts and the real-life case studies. Use evidence and talk about strategies that can help. And please, leave out the melodrama and the scare tactics.

Thank you to Professor Jane Speight, Director of The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (Diabetes Australia – Vic and Deakin University) for her assistance with this post. As is often the case, I speak with Jane for a balanced, thoughtful and sensible response to my ranty, unbalanced, often ridiculous thoughts.


 

Advertisements