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Diabetes at 212 Degrees: ADA President Dr. Des Schatz’s Strident Keynote

Published: 6/27/16
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By Kelly Close

A call to action to make this invisible disease visible. 

In a moving and compelling presidential address (see the entire video here), renowned ADA President Dr. Desmond Schatz (University of Florida, Gainesville, FL) underscored the need to bring diabetes to “212 degrees” – “the boiling point of water where it erupts with urgency” – to transform the “invisible disease” to a highly visible crisis. Dr. Schatz described vividly the many ways in which diabetes is invisible, hidden, and ignored: people hide the reality of living with diabetes from their friends and families, healthcare providers are largely absent in the daily management of the disease, and patients with type 2 diabetes often choose to be invisible due to stigma and feelings of failure. Specifically, he discussed how diabetes remains invisible in the healthcare community, where missed and delayed type 1 and type 2 diabetes diagnoses can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), harmful disease progression, and premature death.

According to Dr. Schatz, almost 20% of children with type 1 diabetes present with DKA, despite the fact that many visit a clinic during the week prior to their diagnosis. He showed a powerful video of an adolescent, Katie, who characterized the “real world” of being a person with diabetes, including how she often felt guilty even talking about her diabetes because she didn’t want her family to feel worried. Nods from through the room from those with diabetes ensued, demonstrating the powerful truth of her statement. We strongly recommend viewing this video of this captivating teenager who “speaks truth” on so many levels.

In addition to individuals with diabetes hiding their condition, diabetes is invisible in the public eye. Dr. Schatz emphasized that although diabetes is far more prevalent, the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) funding for it pales in comparison to that for HIV/AIDS and cancer – an incredible $35 per patient for diabetes vs. $2,500 for HIV/AIDS and $372 for cancer. To that end, he advocated for taking a page out of the book of successful movements such as those for HIV/AIDS and even the recent Zika epidemic (which recently received a $1.1 billion compromise bill), where people have rallied around a strategic vision and inspired a “fiery sense of urgency.” He concluded his presentation with a powerful call to action: “When all is said and done, the people responsible for real action, who are capable of turning the tide of this epidemic and finding a cure … are likely sitting right next to you in this room!” The scientific minds in attendance at ADA will play a significant role in turning the tide of this epidemic, but the onus for change rests on everybody – diabetes affects everybody in one way or another whether or not they know it, and it’s on all of us to educate our communities, raise awareness and increase urgency, build a culture of health, and ultimately find a cure. – AR/NK/KC

[Photo Credit: DiabetesTrialNet.org]

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