The statistics are well publicized and the impact felt every day by every American. The physical, emotional and financial effects of diabetes on the country are devastating and getting worse. According to experts, diabetes costs the nation an estimated $150 to $200 billion annually in health care expenses and billions more in lost productivity. Year after year we hear about diabetes migrating from adults to young adults to teens to kids because of our sedentary (a.k.a. couch potato) lifestyle and how the numbers keep growing. The debate about our healthcare delivery system and universal coverage will continue and while it may or may not get resolved during this congressional session or even this presidency, we need answers, NOW. We must find ways to address our diabetes epidemic.

So, what’s a possible answer?

I recently attended a Social Media Summit sponsored by Roche Diagnostic, one of the major pharmaceutical companies involved with diabetes, along with more than two dozen other diabetes “influencers.” We were brought together to talk, brainstorm and consider the impact of social media on the diabetic community. We spent much time and effort examining social media’s ability to “educate” the diabetic masses and those close to them who are often responsible for care and oversight. This wasn’t a sales and marketing presentation and we didn’t hear about products and branding. This was a Summit focused on diabetes, the desperate need for more and more successful education and an exploration into how social media can help spread the diabetes education message and empower individuals to take control of their condition. The long-range outcome would be to see this increased education derived from social media to produce a new-found personal responsibility to reduce health risks and the nation’s health care costs.

I have been dealing with the ravages of diabetes for a good part of my life and live with many of its scars, so I know the destruction diabetes can cause. I have also dedicated a good portion of my adult life, and plenty of resources as well, to informing and educating people on the disease. I’d like to believe I’ve made a positive impact in educating people on how to live better with diabetes and how to keep on fighting. But, I also know we all need to do more. I believe the Internet and global reach of social media may provide the widest, most in-depth and least expensive opportunity to broadcast our message that you can do it yourself with the proper information that we’ve ever had. I also believe that for many, social media presents the most believable and credible means of informing a “hungry”, pardon my pun, population with the educational tools derived and learned by their peers and therein might be the secret to spreading the word and having it accepted.

We covered this topic in detail as a group and discussed various strategies we’d need to consider. We also talked about the pitfalls social media presents and the responsibilities each of us as “influencers” have to monitor the posted information for accuracy and appropriateness. As a group, we agreed that greater reach was a primary objective of any social media effort and that reach, combined with the believability social media engenders, was an important goal. We also agreed that with one of social media’s greatest strengths being the delivery of information from trusted, peer-like sources, perhaps this was the greatest opportunity available to deliver critical information that would be accepted as though it were being delivered by a close friend or relative. With the closely shared life-experiences social media thrives on, delivering a stronger and deeper diabetes education could very well be like having a sit down talk with your neighbor at the breakfast table with your neighbor actually hailing from across the country or perhaps, across the globe!

As we all left the Summit, I could feel that we’d made progress and learned more about the impact social media could have on our “diabetic community.” We would all be going our separate ways but would remain united in our understanding that the opportunities social media presents would make our work even more meaningful. Through the power of social media, we could surpass our current reach and expand levels of “trust” beyond anything we’d seen before and that might be the key to unlocking the education door for diabetics who otherwise were not being reached or were not “trusting” of the information they were receiving. We also came to understand that social media would give us, and others involved in diabetes education, the ability to inform our diabetic brethren at a levels beyond anything we have ever seen before. For sure, I am more attuned than before to the opportunities social media presents and its ability to deliver critical information and education to greater numbers with “no sugar added.”

Kitty Castellini

Founder, President & CEO

Diabetes Living Today®—Was founded by a “passionate” Doctor and Patient who battled type 1 diabetes and won!  Diabetes Living Today® is a multi-media source paving the way to improve the lives of all diabetics worldwide.