February 7, 2010

Oprah Does Diabetes, But the Diagnosis? Fair to Poor

Oprah was finally to take on America’s Silent Killer – diabetes. YES! I first heard this from a diabetes educator colleague with the inside scoop. Soon the diabetes online community was buzzing with morsels of info leaking out about how Oprah and her producers would present diabetes. It wasn’t sounding good – heavy on scare tactics about complications and bold orders for behavior changes from Oprah’s famed health gurus.

However, because I have utmost respect for Oprah and so passionately believe American's needs a wake up call about diabetes, I remained hopeful. My anticipation escalated. On the eve the show aired I hit play to listen to the recorded show.

Over the next 40 minutes disappointment and, at times, dismay set in:

  • Oprah: Was it necessary to be so negative – using a double amputee on dialysis as your example of a person with type 1 (and only people who know the difference could put two and two together on this fact because Dr. Oz didn't help) when there are thousands of everyday people doing a stellar job dealing with the trials and tribulations of type 1 diabetes?
  • Oprah: Was it supposed to motivate people into action by scaring them with the litany and horrors of diabetes complications? It’s well known that scare tactics don’t motivate people to into action. Nor do yelling doctors, even Drs Oz or Smith.
  • Oprah: Was it so important use Dr. Oz, Dr. Smith, Bob Greene as the all-knowing diabetes gurus vs. a panel of highly trained, well qualified diabetes experts who could present the facts accurately and cogently? Dr. Oz was nothing but confusing throughout the show. He couldn’t even clearly explain the differences between type 1 and 2! He listed the symptoms of diabetes but failed to mention that most people with pre-diabetes or type 2 don’t ever have symptoms prior to diagnsois. And Bob Greene: Where did he get his nutrition expertise? He shared utter nutrition fallacies - the most egregious was that vinegar lowered the glycemic index of foods!

Yes, we have an epidemic of diabetes – 24 million Americans with diabetes, another 57 million people with pre-diabetes.

Yes, research shows people with pre-diabetes could prevent/delay the progression to type 2 diabetes by losing 5 – 7 % of body weight and becoming physically active 150 minutes a week. But reality is in many instances pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes is not preventable, particularly once someone starts down this road. And to muddy the waters and lump type 1, which to date is clearly not preventable, was untrue and unfair. The insinuation has angered many people with and relatives of type 1s and rightly so.

Yes, to make the lifestyle changes that can help people prevent/delay/manage is very hard work on the part of the person with diabetes and their healthcare providers. It doesn’t happen easily or quickly in part because we live in a toxic food society…whether it’s church suppers, fast food meals or cruising the supermarket or convenience store beverage aisles. Unhealthy foods abound and surround us all. It's hard to say no and change your ways and the ways of many!

But what steamed me the most was Walgreen’s offer to provide so-called “diabetes education” to people found to be at risk of or with diabetes once their blood glucose test was positive. PLEASE!!! Using the term “diabetes education” for what is likely to be a handout and couple of minutes, at best, with a health care provider who is not a Certified Diabetes Educator, is a disservice to people at risk for and with diabetes and a flat out insult to the profession of diabetes educators of which I’m a member. Let it be known: there are standards that define diabetes education, better known as diabetes self-management training. There are credentialed healthcare professionals, like myself, who provide this service – certified diabetes educators.

Suffice to say diabetes self-management training is not a one-time interaction or pile of pamphlets. Research shows that people with pre-diabetes and diabetes need initial and ongoing diabetes education and support. With these services health outcomes can improve and healthcare dollars can be saved. Want to find real diabetes education (DSMT) that can be reimbursed by Medicare and many health care plans? Check American Diabetes Association and American Association of Diabetes Educators. And there’s plenty to learn from books published by American Diabetes Association, including a couple of mine Real Life Guide to Diabetes and Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy.






In the end, though I admire Oprah greatly and am in awe of how she can raise the profile of an issue, she and her producers deserve no better than a D for their fair to poor performance on diabetes.

Check out a few other excellent posts which offer Oprah and Dr. Oz their grade on dealing with America's Silent Killer and suggestions for giving diabetes round two on Oprah...or Dr. Oz:

Riva Greenberg, Author of 50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life: And the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It Dr. Oz, How Did You Get it So Wrong?, and just one more Oprah Take on Diabetes Again. This Time it's for Real.

Kerri Sparling, a person with type 1 diabetes, SixUntilMe, Oprah Does Diabetes