11 November 2011

We Do want Diabetes Research, Treatment Innovations, & Care to Move Forward, Right? Part I

I received an email from the ADA the day after JDRF ran it's ad with the alarming statistic that rang round the web: 1 in 20 type I diabetics ... die from hypoglycemia. The ADA email and enclosed ad were entitled Stand Up to Fight Diabetes and carried the following text:

The first step in calling out a proven killer is a simple show of hands.

During American Diabetes Month, help stop a disease that's more likely to take your life than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

Visit us on Facebook this November and Join the Millions who are standing up and fighting back against diabetes.

Together we can create greater awareness and support for a disease that strikes every 17 seconds. Go to Facebook today to take the pledge to help Stop Diabetes. Then share with your friends, family and loved ones.
The first line has become their tag line for Diabetes Awareness Month, and appears in a picture with a woman holding up her hand in the universal sign for stop. There is a small drop of blood visible on her index finger. That line appears in red or bolded black text to one side of her hand (depending on where you read this), and on the other it says is a simple show of hands in white. (The woman's face is also blurred out.) The second line of text appears below that picture.

I don't see these tactics as being much different from the JDRF article discussed in many type I diabetic communities, and it created quite an outcry, particularly from parents of type 1 diabetics. The awareness month serves political, fundraising, and lobbying goals, and we're going to see a lot of sensationalist text like this. Given the state of our economy, and the dismal availability of funding (private, grant, government, etc.) non profits are going into pull out all the stops mode. There are other issues with regulatory agencies, but let's pretend we don't know about those (since most people truly don't...)

We don't have to like the text or the tactics, and we can protest, but the reality is this is what it takes to maybe garner funding when the stakes are high - and right now, they're really high. The percentage of non profit funding being sought through grants (particularly research), foundations, government etc has more than quadrupled, the pool of funding seekers has grown as well, and all for less money. While we have the right to dislike and protest these tactics, these organizations still have to fight to stay afloat, and may well wonder whether we understand just how hard it is to fund diabetes research, or how much we want innovation to occur in our children's lifetimes. 

I'm not saying I agree with or support the tactics, but I can see both sides (in part because I've done a fair amount of grant writing.) I just went to a workshop on the changing face of grant writing a couple of weeks ago, and the push is for non profit organizations to move their focus to friend raising rather than fund raising because the money just isn't there. That's not really a viable option for medical research, and when it comes to research funding, it's sort of like triage - you have to convince the players who matter that the condition and research you want funded is of more critical importance than all others. 

Sometimes, I think you have to pick your battles on this stuff. I didn't like the ADA text above, but I want the artificial pancreas to move forward, so I will instead focus my energy on educating people closer to me who might say, "Hey I saw that ADA ad. I didn't realize..."

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