Educating the General Public – Will they ever get it right?

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Living with type 1 diabetes means you’ll likely have to explain what it is to someone who doesn’t understand at some point.

On a weekly basis I meet people that ask about my pump (a pod on the back of your arm typically is a good conversation starter!), and with it comes the explanation of type 1 diabetes, the difference between type 1 and type 2, and a bit of education explaining there isn’t a “good or bad” kind of diabetes…all types require diligence.

The general public doesn’t have the right information for many reasons. The biggest offender unfortunately is the media. The news, TV shows and movies – all offer “information” that is often taken out of context, not adequately explained and poorly portrayed. It is obvious to those who live with diabetes that these programs haven’t done adequate research into the intricacies of life with diabetes. It would be great if they could simply start by visiting with a reputable source – an Endocrinologist or Certified Diabetes Educator, and then for a true-to-life example, visit with someone who actually lives with either type of diabetes.
The recent online explosion of comments regarding the poorly dramatized experience of a woman with type 1 diabetes in the BBC’s season finale of The Syndicate shows just how uneducated people without diabetes are – even if they are a writer for a big name show. It is one thing to take dramatic license with how you cast character roles and what you do with the plot, but to bring in a medical condition that is very real and has specific management criteria (how to treat a low vs a high BG) means you really should know what you are talking about OR ask someone who does so that the information is correct.

Show writer Kay Mellor states:

In this story Amy is a young woman who is diabetic but also quite manipulative and uses various ways to gain what she wants out of life. We have no idea if she is lying or telling the truth at any given time.
In this last episode we see that Amy had been through a traumatic time with her boyfriend and clearly feels unwell and confused, she could well have made an error saying her blood sugar was low.
I based the story of Amy around a young woman I spoke to who said when she’s been eating or drinking something sugary her blood level spikes

[high] but then after a time her level drops dramatically. She told me she needed the insulin to stabilize her levels. Maybe it’s a case of no two people being exactly the same.
I acknowledge that type 1 Diabetes is a very serious illness………. The Syndicate is in no way a medical drama or a serious documentary about how to treat diabetes.

The biggest issue I see with her statement is that even if a show is not a medical drama it can still cause damage when it is factually inaccurate about a REAL LIFE medical condition. This only perpetuates the problem with the general public understanding diabetes, and makes it harder to educate people we encounter. First we have to clear up all the misinformation and then we can start to provide proper education.

We all expect some unnatural circumstances and a lot of drama when watching movies like Spiderman. It wouldn’t be the same without the webs and wall crawling, right? (Thank goodness there is no reference to diabetes in the Spiderman movies!)

However, when talking about something that isn’t fiction with a made up medical condition it is important to consider the impact on people’s general understanding as well as those living with it 24/7 – Please get the information right! Whether you are a big-wig in a company, a news reporter, or a writer for a major TV drama/movie, you are in the spotlight. Wouldn’t it be good if you were praised for actually providing a bit of correct education along with that top news story or blockbuster?

We all feel strongly about this topic. Do you have a story to share about how you’ve seen media provide false information? Have you seen or read something that perpetuates the stereotypes? Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

By | 2016-12-08T23:26:48+00:00 July 28th, 2015|Thinking Like A Pancreas Blog|0 Comments

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