Last week, there was a very interesting infographic doing the rounds on social media sites about where people donate as compared with the diseases that kill us.

It looks like this:

Where we donate

As you can see, diabetes is credited with causing the third most deaths, yet it accounts for relatively little money raised.

Firstly, this isn’t a game of ‘my health condition is worse than yours’. As someone most eloquently wrote on a Facebook status the other day: ‘all diseases suck’. Equally, every single condition is worthy of people’s donations. There simply isn’t enough money to go around to do the research, run the programs and assist people dealing with whatever health condition they have.

But I think unpacking why some conditions attract more donations than others is worthwhile.

Despite being responsible for many, many deaths and affecting millions of people both here in Australia and around the world, diabetes just doesn’t seem to be the ‘disease of choice’ when people reach into their wallets to make a donation.

Why is this? Why is diabetes not at the top of people’s minds when they want to do some good?

I’m just going to say this.

Diabetes isn’t sexy. It’s really not. It’s chronic; there’s no cure; and while there is the cute factor when we’re talking about little kids with type 1 diabetes, they grow up. And then it’s just boring adults with boring diabetes.

But there’s more than that.

The media does a great job of stigmatising this condition. Plus, there’s the ‘you did this to yourself’ misconception that means it’s okay to blame people for developing (type 2) diabetes in the first place and ‘…why the hell should I donate to you. Get off the couch and go for a walk’. Helpful. Really, really helpful.

Diabetes needs a makeover. Plain and simple. We need people in the general community to change the way that they currently think about diabetes so when it’s time for a little generosity, they consider making a donation to diabetes research or consumer organisations.

The neat little packages we seem to have about diabetes are misleading. Tying up type 1 with kids means that adults with type 1 have no voice at all. Blaming all people with type 2 diabetes for ‘doing this to themselves’ completely forgets the facts that genes play a significant role in developing type 2 diabetes. Calling diabetes ‘a touch of sugar’ ignores the seriousness of everyday life with diabetes. In fact, the very idea that this is all about eating sugar results in such misunderstanding about diabetes that people think the solution is as simple as not eating cake. The misconception that insulin is a cure ignores the multitude of factors that are involved with the daily management of this condition. And by thinking it is just about sticking needles into our bodies negates the distress and anxiety life with diabetes can bring.

I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that what we’re doing at the moment isn’t working. Our messaging is wrong.  How do we get it right?

Advertisements