What if diabetes was just “the new normal?”

Bayer just started running a new TV campaign for their meter, the Contour. Funny, I rarely think of Bayer in relation to diabetes. I think aspirin, even though a few months ago I participated in a focus group for Bayer’s Contour meter and learned they have a whole division devoted to diabetes care. Still, I think aspirin. But they’re beginning to change my mind. Maybe they’re even beginning to change people’s minds about diabetes with this new campaign, subtle as it is.

While in the focus group I remember reviewing four concepts for the Contour. Two were very positive, and one had a tagline something like, “Yeah, I have diabetes, and, I enjoy my life.” That one must have made it because I heard something like that in their commercial. Remarkably, they’re not talking about the work of diabetes, which actor Wilford Brimley talks about selling diabetes Medicare supplies. They don’t have a combative diva like Patti LaBelle, declaring, “I control diabetes, it doesn’t control me!” And it’s not alarmist, as in the new public awareness campaign for A1cs. It’s just an upbeat lifestyle spot where ordinary people doing ordinary things say to camera, “Life with diabetes? It’s about going for it!” “Life with diabetes? Getting more just got easier.” 

A little trite? Sure. A little simplistic? You bet, but I kinda like it. What I like is it’s not threatening, frightening or bullying. It says ‘I take diabetes on the chin, no biggie.’ While us type 1s know diabetes is no walk in the park, and most type 2s probably feel the same, this may actually help type 2s feel that diabetes is manageable and not the end of life as they knew it. The tone of the pitch, and its upbeat takeaway, actually makes me feel a little more upbeat.

A few weeks ago reading Jill Sklar’s book, The 5 Gifts of Illness, I thought, ‘What if as people grow older, type 2 diabetes was just ‘the new normal?’ I mean, everyone’s getting it, so what if we didn’t look at it as an aberration, but it was expected, as in — you get older, you get wrinkles, and you get diabetes. Truth is, many experts say if you live long enough most people will get diabetes. My 84 year old father has just been diagnosed. But, trust me, that’s another story.

I mean would we look at diabetes differently if it was expected? If it was just “the new normal” at some point in our lives? Of course for type 1s it’s a little different, but still if everyone expected to get diabetes would that change how we view diabetes, and how we live with diabetes? Would people greet it more gracefully and with less alarm and overwhelm? Would people be more accepting of the lifestyle changes diabetes requires? Just as we expect to slow down as we age, maybe if we knew diabetes was a natural part of aging, we might also accept eating less and moving more as what we’re supposed to do when it arrives: the very behaviors that will keep us healthier as we age. Of course, it’s likely some people would deny their diabetes, fight it or fear it I suppose just as they do now. But others would accept it more easily, and still others would embrace it as the impetus to make the last few decades of their lives healthier and more rewarding. I have no answers, but it’s an interesting proposition don’t you think? And, going a step further, if you embrace this notion, you might find you view your diabetes differently.

On a final note, I will tell you about my experience of Bayer’s Contour meter. I was given one last week by a cde. After years of using One Touch meters, I may just prefer the Contour and it took me by surprise. It seems to require half the amount of blood the One Touch does and draw it up twice as fast. Hmmm… it’ll be interesting to watch Bayer as they get into the ring with the big boys.

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