I try not to have an opinion on the whole Type 1 vs Type 2 Diabetes debate because they are both extremely serious conditions that can be life threatening if not controlled properly. Almost daily, I see Type 1 Diabetics getting annoyed at being presumed to have Type 2, and Type 2 Diabetics being annoyed that they are seen as ‘lesser’ by Type 1’s. Why is it even a competition?
However, what does get my goat is that the media fail to take responsibility to educate the public that there is, in fact, more than one kind of Diabetes. We’ve all heard of Type 2 Diabetes. It’s been painted as ‘the lazy mans disease’ that you’ll most certainly get if you sit on your bum all day scoffing pizza and drinking Coke! And then you’ve got the little known, Type 1 Diabetes, ‘the bad kind’, which is constantly overlooked by the media, frustrating those of us who live & deal with the condition daily.
Take this week for example. I had a day off work and no chores, so I decide to chill out in front of the tv. Now I’m not a fan of daytime TV, however I do like to watch ITV’s ‘This Morning’ whenever I get the chance. For my non-British readers, ‘This Morning’ is a lifestyle show that discusses various topics, from top news headlines, health issues, entertainment, hair & beauty… you get the general idea. It’s a show that makes me personally think about things that may not usually affect me, and I love how it raises issues on various, often controversial, but interesting topics.
Getting back to the point, I was excited to hear that Type 1 Diabetes was going to be discussed on the show, pleased that it was being placed under the spotlight on such a popular show & I hoped it would clear up a lot of myths.
The discussion featured Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford and his son Harry, who was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic aged 11 (now 28). Harry’s main message was that although his diagnosis changed his life, he doesn’t let the condition get him down or stop him from living his life to the full. “Brilliant, what a great message to pass on to the newly diagnosed” I thought, “Such an inspiration!” Harry discussed his diagnosis and stated that luckily for him, his symptoms were recognised immediately by his mum before his condition had the chance to become life threatening.
Presenter Holly Willoughby asked the sensible question “Why is it so important to identify the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes quickly?” Cue Dr Chris Steele MBE, the shows resident doctor. “OK, here goes…” I thought, “…some helpful information about the warning signs to look out for and what could happen if it is not immediately treated!”
Ummm, not so. I failed to hide my disappointment as Dr Chris started reeling off a long list of what could happen if you go years undiagnosed as a… wait for it… a Type 2 Diabetic! I was impressed with how Presenter Phillip Schofield consistently tried to steer the conversation back to the topic in hand, Type 1 Diabetes, but Dr Chris – a UK Family GP with over 35 years of experience in the medical profession- kept veering back to Type 2 Diabetes, leaving the viewer, I believe, likely feeling confused and no clearer as to what Type 1 Diabetes actually is! I mean, if an experienced Doctor can’t explain what it is, how can you expect the public to learn?
It got me wondering why there is rarely any mention of Type 1 Diabetes in public. I honestly often wonder if there is some sort of conspiracy theory going on! Realistically, I believe it’s simply a case of the media not being clued up about the condition. But why? There’s plenty of information out there, so why is it so hard to research two very different conditions and compile an accurate report or news piece outlining exactly what each of them are, and using this information to educate?
I believe there is so much confusion between the two conditions these days based on the fact that Type 1 was always seen as a childhood condition with a short lifespan and Type 2 as an adults condition. These days, the Type 1 children are living longer and/or being diagnosed as adults, as are more children being Diagnosed as Type 2. The disease is moving on with the times, while public perceptions are still stuck in the past.
I wanted to find out what other people thought. I posted the following question in a couple of online Diabetes Support Groups: Why do you think Type 1 Diabetes is rarely mentioned in the media compared to Type 2?
It garnered a number of interesting theories, the first being the cost. Type 2 Diabetes, in many cases, can be managed by making some healthy lifestyle changes. By drumming awareness into the public, this would encourage people to become healthier rather than take costly medications and saving the NHS a large amount of money.
Another suggestion is blame. The general feeling is that it’s easier to talk about something that has a clear root cause. Although it is known that Type 1 is an auto-immune disease, it is not known what causes it, whereas Type 2, although caused by many factors such as age, gender, lifestyle and pre-existing medical conditions to name a few, it is often solely blamed on unhealthy lifestyle choices, lack of exercise, overeating etc, making it easy to associate it with the obesity epidemic. Which brings me to on to the next theory…
That Type 2 Diabetes is more marketable, which is probably why the media overloads us with it. By constantly telling us that Type 2 is caused by obesity, money can be made from it. Whether it’s selling the latest fitness DVD, the latest healthy cookbook, weight loss supplements, stick a ‘Cure Your Type 2 Diabetes’ label on it and the money will roll in.
Regardless of why the media fail to distinguish clearly between the two conditions, I can’t see it changing any time soon. Which leaves it up to us Diabetics to work together to get the message across. Instead of taking the ‘us against them’ stance and arguing amongst ourselves, how about we come together as a whole in order to educate the public? We don’t have to work in media to make our voices heard, social media is a massively helpful tool to inform others, share a meme, write a short paragraph… However you chose to educate, even if just one person acknowledges it, that one person will take it in and pass it on to the next person, who passes it on to someone else, who passes it on… Let’s stop bickering and taking offence, and stick up for ourselves! We owe it to ourselves!
Visit the Diabetes.co.uk websitefor more information about the two main types of Diabetes.
Did you know there more than 2 types of Diabetes?