I’m usually fairly cynical about ‘awareness’ weeks or days. What does ‘awareness’ really mean? It’s up there with ‘advocacy’ in terms of woolliness. And what does it achieve? How does bombarding people’s social media for a short period of time really make a difference to the status quo?
Often such campaigns are earnest and smack of ‘do-goodery’. Which is fine. I have no problem with people wanting to make a positive difference (I’m one of them). But for some reason I seem to have a problem with drawing attention to it. Why? Maybe it’s because I see what other people see when they look at me – a crusader for diabetes care. Sounds a bit cringe-worthy, doesn’t it?
Or perhaps it’s the restrained ‘niceness’ of it all: that C of E-ish quality that comes across as a little bit superficial, somewhat fixed, and lacking in warmth and genuine depth. Cynical, I know. But we can’t all be perfect. Call it the moral equivalent of taking too little insulin.
Sometimes my gloomy prescience was proved right: Philip Schofield on ITV’s Loose Women did a good job of ‘raising awareness’ of diabetes, but also ended up rather belittling hypos. He said his mum would often behave strangely if she was having one, and gave the example of her bursting into applause at the theatre – mid-performance, causing him excruciating embarrassment. Sure, that could happen I suppose – it rang true-ish. But what of people collapsing and going into a coma (possibly while driving) when they’ve had too much insulin? Or the nightmare of living with lost hypo awareness? What of the long-term damage caused by hypos over the years? Perhaps that’s a bit much to ask of PipScho on day-time telly, but I still think he could’ve done better than make it seem hypos were one of life’s little eccentricities.
But this time, mostly, diabetes week felt different. I felt involved. And it wasn’t just because I was able to sell people the Small-in-one from a re-vamped site. It began late on Sunday night when on Twitter I encouraged someone who was finding their diabetes tough to keep going. Then getting in touch with people throughout the week on social media, I saw lots of great articles pop up on advances in diabetes, the problems people face day-to-day, and the issues healthcare has with keeping up with the ever-growing numbers of diabetics. And on top of all that I got to interview candidates for roles with NHS England as a patient rep. Not only was that fairly empowering in itself, but the role was for NHS Vanguard organisations: experimental sites where GPs, hospitals, other healthcare providers and community groups are looking to ‘join up’ interventions to make a lasting difference to people’s health.
I’m sure all of this feeling of ‘doing good’ by making a ‘tangible difference’ will melt away soon (don’t worry dear reader, normal service will resume). But for now, I’m glad we had diabetes week. I just wonder if they could make it longer next time?