Diabetes gonna get you

About 10 days ago Diabetes UK launched their biggest ever UK public awareness campaign – Beware the silent assassin. I first got wind of the campaign when I spotted this arresting poster at Old Street tube station in east London.

The campaign has been launched on the back of research by Mori showing that people tend to underestimate the severity of the complications associated with diabetes; for example, only 29% of adults are aware of the link between diabetes and heart disease, and only 46% appreciate that diabetes shortens life expectancy. Diabetes UK says, “This research tells us that the public see diabetes as rather mild and easily managed – something of an inconvenience rather than the serious condition it can be.”

In addition, an estimated 500,000 people in the UK have the condition but are not aware of it, so are at risk of being diagnosed too late to prevent the complications of diabetes. “Dealing with the diabetes time-bomb is a matter of urgency if we want to prevent millions of people from facing a grim future of ill-health,” said Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.

The ‘hard-hitting campaign’ launched by the charity aims to spook the public into realizing that diabetes is serious condition that can potentially cause heart disease, stroke, amputations, kidney failure and blindness.

The images, which will appear on outdoor posters as well as in newspapers and magazines, feature an ominous ghostly figure – the specter of undiagnosed diabetes presumably – pouncing on unsuspecting members of the public. The ads also include secondary warning messages such as:
– Diabetes causes more deaths than breast and prostate cancer combined.
– The death certificate will say heart attack. It was really diabetes.
– Diabetes causes heart disease, stroke, amputations, kidney failure and blindness.
So far so portentous.

The campaign also encourages people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, i.e. the overweight, to make changes in their lifestyle to avoid a future of chronic disease. As the blurb states, “With early diagnosis and by leading a healthier lifestyle and improving diabetes control, the risk of developing these serious complications can be minimised. “

The adverts refer readers to a microsite developed especially for the campaign, which has quizzes to help users establish their risk of developing diabetes and gives information and support on managing the condition.

I personally feel that these adverts suggest that diabetes could to strike you dead on the spot – assassinate you – the way heart disease might, but is this really the case? On the other hand, a campaign educating our increasingly overweight population that diabetes is a serious and mostly preventable disease is certainly needed, and it is quite likely that striking adverts such as these will get people thinking more seriously about their health.

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