Many people with type 1 diabetes feel let down by an organisation they say should have their backs – and say it’s time for clearer messages of what the different types of diabetes are.
November is the national action month for diabetes, which sees Diabetes NZ push annual campaigns shining a light on the condition.
This year, many type 1 diabetics believe the organisation has gone too far in grouping them with type 2 diabetes in a campaign called ‘Love Don’t Judge’.
Vanessa Pitt who has type 1 said ‘Love Don’t Judge’ assumed someone would judge her for having type 1 diabetes.
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She said it was “rubbish”. “That is not an issue for type ones, so why would we embrace this slogan?”
Pitt’s husband has type 2 diabetes, and she said a lot more “effort and management” went into controlling type 1, which was a 24/7 lifetime disease, while she said her husband could potentially come off his type 2 medication with exercise and diet.
But this isn’t the case for all type twos, who often have no control over a diagnosis of the disease.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to use insulin properly and/or the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. Reasons why it might develop include poor diet, inactivity, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stress as well as genetics, ethnicity and advancing age.
Over 250,000 people in New Zealand have diabetes and 90 per cent of them have type 2.
Pitt said no type was “more important” than the other, but they were different.
“I have empathy for type twos but I want people to know more about type 1 and that is definitely not coming across.”
Type 1 diabetes can affect anyone, predominantly children and teens. It’s an auto immune disease usually caused by the body’s immune system destroying insulin-producing cells, eventually making the insulin producing organ, the pancreas, useless.
Having type 1 diabetes includes a lifetime of administering insulin, either by injection or pump, testing blood sugars several times a day, monitoring food and balancing insulin with activities.
Dozens of type ones in a Facebook group said type 1 should be separated from other types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetic Wendy Turner said they should not be grouped together. “I’m tired of being told I should have eaten better and exercised more, type 1 couldn’t be avoided.”
A mother of a 7-year-old type 1 said she had been looking forward to fundraising for Diabetes NZ this year, “but then I looked at the campaign and it p*ssed me off how it was all about type 2”.
Another mum of a young type 1 said it made her “blood boil” seeing the different types “lumped together”.
Love Don’t Judge “perpetuates the perception that a type 1 made poor choices leading to ‘diabetes’ as an umbrella term”, a type 1 said.
Previous year’s Diabetes NZ campaigns have included ‘Know the Difference’ in 2018, which focused on the differences between type 1 and 2 and ‘Act Now to Live Well’.
Diabetes NZ chief executive Heather Verry said this year’s campaign recognised the impact of diabetes on mental health, for all people living with diabetes.
“This Diabetes Action Month we are encouraging New Zealanders to be kinder and to change the way they think and speak about diabetes. The reality of living with diabetes is that it comes with a huge emotional burden.”
She said a 2018 survey found both diabetes types experienced discrimination and stigma.
“While the conditions of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different, both are lifelong conditions that cause emotional stress and carry an emotional burden. Understanding and supporting Kiwis living with Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes is something we can all do.”