Beyond a simple tag and bracelet, there are few signs by which you can physically determine that any given individual has diabetes. Similar to mental health it is hidden and, therefore, oftentimes misunderstood.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, with World Diabetes Day having just passed on Nov. 14. Rather than simply becoming aware that it is a prevalent issue in the lives of many individuals, our society needs to evaluate why it is so prevalent and what we can do to change that.
Even with Type Two diabetes, is it truly the fault of the individual? Or instead, can we find the answer by looking at the greater social and cultural contributors to ignorance and a lack of options?
Following recent news of dangerously high rates of diabetes in the Canadian Inuit community, it is important to look at it in a greater lens of social susceptibilities. Is it a lack of awareness, an inability to eat healthily or something more procedural? Students are also a population group with heightened risk of developing Type Two diabetes – mostly as a result of poor dieting, stress and a lack of exercise.
As a student, food is always a difficult subject. From few healthy food choices made available on the Brock University campus, maintaining a healthy diet is extremely difficult. For many students, their lunch might be made of a poutine or even a bag of chips, simply because it is relatively cheap and readily available.
The struggle for a healthy image doesn’t end along with the school day at 5:00 p.m., however. Due to issues of availability and convenience of transportation, time restrictions and a lack of available funds, grocery shopping can be an arduous and unconsoling task.
There are only two main grocery stores within a reasonable distance of the student housing in the Glenridge area: Zehrs and Sobeys. With these two stores essentially holding a monopoly on the availability of groceries, many students will simply end up going to an Avondale or other convenience stores to buy their groceries, which do not offer a sufficient number of healthy options. Even if a student is able to get to either Zehrs or Sobeys, oftentimes the health food, organic products, fresh bread and vegetables are more expensive than “junk” and processed foods.
Just think about how much less expensive a bottle of Pepsi is compared to a jug of milk – clearly, it is a structural, economic issue rather than the sole fault of the individual.
That being said, the entire point of Diabetes Month is to understand the breadth of the disease. The cause for Type One diabetes is currently unknown, but often linked to genetic susceptibilities. Similarly, Type Two diabetes is influenced heavily by genetics, while also being dependant on controllable factors such as diet and exercise.
However, any understanding of the disease would be limited if we do not look to the individual victims, of course. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has been doing everything in their power to get the word out recently about individual experiences with diabetes. Their “You don’t know the half of it” campaign looks at the invisible side of diabetes, everything from pin pricks and having to constantly monitor your own blood sugar levels. Ultimately it will give you a glimpse into a disease you thought you knew.
Visit jdrf.ca for more information on the disease, and to find a link to their Facebook page where you can find video testimonials of individuals struggling with the disease.