April 04, 2017

Dispelling myths about diabetes to reduce stigma 

Diabetes is caused by the same factors as many other chronic diseases yet it is uniquely singled out for blame and stigma - stigma that is usually based on misunderstanding of the disease. What if there was a way to turn the negative thoughts, stereotypes and blame about diabetes into understanding, empathy and support? That’s the goal of Diabetes Canada’s new campaign to Strike out Stigma.

“There are common misconceptions about the causes of diabetes. The idea that diabetes is always caused by behaviour or lifestyle choices is an example of an inaccuracy that colours the way a person with diabetes perceives themselves as well as how they are perceived,” says Dr. Jan Hux, chief science officer at Diabetes Canada. “Experiencing diabetes-related stigma can have a significant negative effect on a person’s wellbeing and may lead them to neglect the things they need to do to manage their diabetes and to poor health results. The goal of our campaign is to change perceptions to move Canadians from stigma to empathy.”

From March until August, Diabetes Canada is asking Canadians from coast to coast to rally to Strike out Stigma, increasing empathy and raising funds to support the 11 million Canadians living with or at risk of this disease.

Beyond the campaign, Diabetes Canada funds research on stigma and the emotional and mental health of people living with diabetes to help find ways to change perceptions.

“Patients with diabetes have daily challenges and regimens that must be followed to protect their future health. On top of this, they may feel excluded or rejected. Addressing stigma is critical to their health and well-being,” says Dr. Kaberi Dasgupta, a physician researcher at the Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre whose recent work on diabetes stigma in people living with type 1 diabetes was funded by Diabetes Canada. “Feeling blamed and shamed makes caring for yourself harder and can lead to anxiety and unhappiness. As health-care providers, family, and friends, we need to stand with people with diabetes to confront the challenges of stigma.”

There are three main types of diabetes, type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes (a temporary condition that can develop during pregnancy). Type 1 diabetes is not preventable. It most commonly begins in childhood (although it can occur at any age) and occurs when a person’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Type 2 diabetes is more common and happens when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body does not properly use the insulin it makes. The causes of type 2 diabetes can be genetic, behavioural or environmental. People of Indigenous, Asian, Hispanic, South Asian or African descent are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Visit enddiabetes.ca to read stories of Canadians who have experienced diabetes stigma and to show your support for Canadians living with diabetes.

About Diabetes Canada

Diabetes Canada is the registered national charitable organization that is making the invisible epidemic of diabetes visible and urgent. Diabetes Canada partners with Canadians to End Diabetes through:

  • Educational programs and support services;
  • Resources for health-care professionals on best practices to care for people with diabetes;
  • Advocacy to governments, schools and workplaces; and
  • Funding world-leading Canadian research to improve treatments and find a cure.

For more information, visit diabetes.ca or call 1-800-BANTING (226-8464).


For more information or to schedule an interview:

Krista Lamb
Communications Manager
Diabetes Canada
Phone: 416-408-7088

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