Diabetes Awareness and Social Media

Take 2 – In Observance of Diabetes Awareness Month (November)

Who is Talking About Diabetes?   caution diabetes

It is common to open the newspaper and read articles about HIV/AIDS, cancer, or recent health scares/outbreaks. More often than not there is little mention about diabetes. Outside of diabetes communities there is little discussion about the disease. Diabetes which is the 7th leading cause of deaths in the U.S. is often overlooked as a major cause of death.

In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, had diabetes. Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. The American Diabetes Association estimated that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion. Of the $245 billion, $176 billion for direct medical costs, and $69 billion in reduced productivity. Now compare and contrast diabetes’ direct health cost of $176 billion dollars in 2012 with that of cancer’s direct health cost of $88.7 billion dollars in 2011. Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in the U.S.. The difference in expense is dramatic enough to warrant more awareness of diabetes. Who is talking about diabetes? Diabetes advocacy organizations.


How do diabetes advocacy groups facilitate discussion?

Diabetes Awareness and Social Media

In addition to traditional forms of advertisements, diabetes advocacy groups have taken their case to social media. Many organizations are using social media as a platform where they can bring about diabetes awareness, support and education.

  1. ADA espanolThe American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. website, YouTube, Twitter (English, Spanish), Facebook.
  2. Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (DSMA) is involved with and promotes social media in all its forms to empower people affected by diabetes and to connect them with each other to foster support and education. Twitter, Facebook
    • DSMA Live. Listen podcast free in iTunes.   DSMA-live-header
    • DSMA Blog. Each month, DSMA inspires bloggers and invites deeper conversation through this blog carnival. DSMA suggests a blog topic. Diabetes bloggers from around the world write blogs based on the topic and link their blog to the carnival round-up.
  3. dLife claims to be #1 diabetes destination with tips, videos, recipes, expert answers, and the largest online community of people trying to live their best diabetes life. website, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook.
  4. TuDiabetes is a community of people touched by diabetes. It is a program of the Diabetes Hands Foundation which is a 501c3 nonprofit that connects, empowers, mobilizes the diabetes community. website, YouTube, Twitter (English, Spanish), Facebook.





My research on this topic showed that most organizations are making use of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube,  and blogs while others like DSMA Live are making use of podcast feeds. They are using the above social media platforms to spread word of the Diabetes Awareness Month as well as the Stop Diabetes campaign. I noticed that of the organization/foundations I reviewed, Twitter was the most commonly used social media platform i.e. it had the most updated and new content.  I believe this is so because 1) Twitter is a great networking tool, 2) it is a fast way to get the message out and 3) most importantly it facilitates engagement among users. Data from the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014 (released June 10, 2014) showed that non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics had higher rates of diagnosed diabetes than Asians and non-Hispanic whites. Only the American Diabetes Association and TuDiabetes had dedicated hashtags in Spanish. Based on the aforementioned statistics I expected to find more organizations using social media to better engage  ethnic populations most affected by diabetes. This to me is an area for improvement.



  1. I really like this post! Thank you for covering the topic about diabetics! Diabetes is always out of people’s focus partly because of its chronicity, but it’s actually a major cause of death in the U.S. One of social media’s obvious strengths is that it empowers disadvantaged minority – people in need or disabled – to achieve something they can’t do in reality. As we talked in class before, people with autism take advantage of social media to communicate, socialize and work in a less distractive way. Diabetes is a slightly different case. People don’t confront social dilemma but do suffer body illness. Social media is indeed a good way to build up a community for all of diabetes, but I think it still has great potential to contribute more to the community. For example, one fantastic opportunity that social media affords endocrinologists is the ability to learn from their patients. They can either communicate individually with their patients on social media to make personalized remedies or analyze big data generated by social platforms for continuous professional development.

  2. Hi Paul, nice follow up to your overview of Diabetes post last week. I like how you did a deeper dive into each of the various social channels currently being used to raise awareness about Diabetes. I thought your insights regarding minority populations and languages in the US were particularly interesting. You would expect these platforms to be more representative of all populations of people and its surprising only TuDiabetes has dedicated hashtags in Spanish. We have talked a lot about using different platforms to reach different audiences based on their needs and the content they are looking to receive, but I think understanding how each platform is used with regards to ethnic demographics is still very much an evolving/new space. Also, since Diabetes can be such a personal issue, I would expect more activity on community blogs since they seem to be a little more personal and able to dive into issues, when compared to the limited and completely open nature of Twitter.

  3. Interesting topic! Growing up, I was an avid Jonas Brothers fan. Nick Jonas, the youngest brother in the group, has Type I Diabetes. As a celebrity, he has used his fame to increase awareness about diabetes through posting on YouTube, writing songs about his struggle with diabetes, and utilizing Twitter to create a group of followers that really is passionate about diabetes awareness. Nick uses his Twitter platform to not only tweet about diabetes, but to post other things about his career and to reach out to his fans (many of which do not have diabetes.) The result is educating almost 10 million fans about diabetes, which truly is an incredible feat! In addition to the sources that you mentioned, celebrities with diabetes are in a unique position to share their story and facilitate discussion among their fans. It is amazing that social media gives celebrities the power to share with and relate to fans in a way that they were never able to before. Here is the link to Nick Jonas’ twitter if you’d like to take a look! https://twitter.com/nickjonas

  4. Richard, I really enjoyed this follow up post on increasing awareness about diabetes via social media.

    I think @nicolecasperbc hits on an important topic – celebrity endorsements are often a very easy way to spread the word and increase awareness about an issue. I’m sure we all remember those sad MSPCA commercials were Sarah McLaughlin would come on TV and talk about animal cruelty. Most people probably don’t want to admit they have a chronic health condition but it’s a great way to advocate for policy change and innovation and to increase awareness/reduce its prevalence.

  5. Really enjoyed this post. My father has diabetes and now I feel inspired to share some of the tools that you talked about in your post with him. It’s very good to see that these organizations are aware of and taking advantage of social media, especially twitter, to get their messages and ideas out there to the world where hopefully people that need it will be reached by people that need it. Social influencers are a great way to get a message viewed by larger amounts of people and the above example of Nick Jonas is a great example of how a very important message can have a far reach through such an individual.

    1. I am happy to learn that you will share the links with your father. I am sure he will be pleased with the respective communities. My dad was a diabetic but I did not recall his doctors or clinicians referring any of the resources listed in the blog. Perhaps, health clinicians can do a better job at providing these resources to diabetics. Lastly, I have to agree with @soniamfurtado @nicolecasperbc that diabetes awareness needs more celebrity endorsements. Perhaps with those endorsements more people can become aware of the disease.

  6. Very interesting post. I didn’t realize that medical spending for diabetes far exceeds that of cancer, but it makes sense, considering how cancer doesn’t have many cures the way that diabetes does (not cures per say, but better preventive/coping medications). I think its much more important for a disease like diabetes to have such a strong social media campaign because far more research has been done on diabetes than cancer, and several lifestyle choices have been scientifically proven to both reduce the chances of becoming diabetic as well as cope with the effects of diabetes. Thus, if there is information available that can significantly assist the public, it should be made publicly available and social media can play a huge hand to that end. Diseases like Cancer can start a lot of campaigns to raise money for more research and to begin to develop more actionable information, but thus far most of that information is still unknown.

  7. I would like to thank everyone for your comments. Everyone raised valid points in her/his contributions. I do hope that as more information becomes available about diabetes, advocacy groups and health clinicians can find ways to better inform the public via the use of social media platforms. Thanks again!

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