Like alot of health care professionals, I always welcome media reports and features highlighting diabetes, obesity and other health matters. It is always an opportunity whether it is positive or negative to advocate, educate and create awareness on such vital matters.
Issues arise when the content of such reporting contains incorrect, misinformed or confusing language and information. Unfortunately this was the case on TV3’s Midweek programme of Feb 5th 2014 at 22.00. This programme featured a report on Ireland’s growing problem with obesity, and because of its relevance to the topic in question, diabetes was mentioned on several occasions.
The issue I have and so have several other advocacy groups who contacted me in regards to this report, is that, none of the health care professionals featured stated clearly which type of diabetes they were making reference to,only referring to ‘diabetes’ in a general sense, therefore making the content of the report in relation to diabetes confusing and misleading. This was even more disappointing for me, because as a specialist nurse working in diabetes, I have an expectation that my colleagues/peers in the medical/health care profession would clearly state which type of diabetes they were referencing to in these features.
Because of my background, I am able to make an educated guess that they were referring to Type 2 Diabetes, given the content, which obesity is a significant risk factor for. Obesity is not a risk factor for Type 1 Diabetes, which is an auto-immune disease developed mainly in childhood for which there is no known cause and no present cure. People with Type 1 diabetes can only be treated with insulin, which is a life saving treatment and helps them avoid the long term complications that are associated with diabetes when controlled effectively. While lifestyle plays a role in maintaining of cardiovascular health and balancing blood sugar levels in Type 1 Diabetes (as it does with any individual), lifestyle cannot ‘cure’ or ‘reverse’ Type 1 Diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes is a life-long chronic disease, which unfortunately gets sucked into the whole current media appetite for the obesity and Type 2 Diabetes crisis. This can be upsetting & dis-empowering for the 30,000 people who live in Ireland with Type 1 diabetes, their family and friends, who have a daily uphill battle not only dealing with the challenges that Type 1 Diabetes brings, but now have to deal with public confusion, misinformation and general ignorance surrounding both types of diabetes.
Reports like this also make my job as a specialist diabetes educator difficult, as I constantly have to deal with the myths surrounding both types of diabetes. There is a duty of care on the health care professionals featured to ensure that the type of diabetes they are speaking about is clearly identified and also there is a duty on the media outlet facilitating the report to ensure it is factually correct. An independent source with a specific, professional knowledge of diabetes should be sought, before reports like this are broadcast to the public to ensure the information given is that of a clear and factually correct manner.
I will hasten to add that the majority of the content was factually correct, but became completely irrelevant because it failed to clearly identify which type of diabetes it was pertaining to.
TV3 is not the only media outlet to release reports like this, it occurs on a daily, if not hourly basis. Many advocacy groups worldwide are now implementing campaigns to ensure that the differences between Type 1 & Type 2 diabetes is clearly outlined in all media reports featuring diabetes. I, Helena Farrell (RGN, MSc Diabetes) as director & founder of Diabetes Insight/Helena Farrell Consultancy will join them in that campaign if it can make the lives of those living with all types of diabetes just that little bit easier.
Helena Farrell, RGN, MSc Diabetes
Founder & Director of Diabetes Insight/Helena Farrell Consultancy
Manager of the Cork Health & Lifestyle Centre