Diabetes Action Month highlights different types of diabetes
This November is Diabetes Action Month in New Zealand. This annual campaign aims to educate the public around diabetes
as a major health issue that affects almost a quarter of a million New Zealanders.
“Diabetes carries a stigma that often leads to discrimination against diabetes sufferers by people who are ignorant of
the disease, its causes and how it can affect sufferers, not only in the long term, but day to day,” says Steve Crew,
Chief Executive of Diabetes NZ.
The month will raise awareness about the different types of diabetes, what symptoms to look out for, and what people
should do if they notice symptoms of the disease in themselves or others.
Know the Difference
This year, the theme of Diabetes Action Month is ‘Know the Difference’, which aims to counter common misconceptions
“We want people to understand that there are different diseases,” said Mr Crew.
Most people equate diabetes with its most common form, type 2 diabetes. However, Know The Difference draws attention to
type 1 diabetes – an autoimmune disease that is unrelated to lifestyle and predominantly diagnosed in childhood.
Gestational diabetes is another type of diabetes that affects some women during pregnancy. While gestational diabetes is
temporary, it does pose risks during pregnancy, and about half of the women with gestational diabetes develop type 2
diabetes later in life.
Children and Type 1 diabetes
With type 1 diabetes, the body attacks its own cells that produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually first diagnosed
during childhood and people with the disease have a lifelong dependency on insulin doses through injections or an
About 10% of people with diabetes have type 1, with more than 20,000 sufferers in New Zealand.
“The sooner type 1 can be diagnosed, the smaller the chance that those affected will suffer diabetic ketoacidosis, or
DKA, which can cause permanent organ damage or even death.”
To help raise awareness of type 1 diabetes, Diabetes NZ and international type 1 diabetes support organisation Beyond
Type 1 are cooperating to release an information kit for doctors’ surgeries that includes a poster for patients to alert
them to the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, symptoms which can easily be misdiagnosed as an upset stomach or virus, strep
throat, urinary tract infection, or even a growth spurt.
Jerry the Bear arrives in New Zealand
One of the highlights of Diabetes Action Month is the introduction of Jerry the Bear as part of a care package for
children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This very special teddy also has type 1 diabetes helps to comfort,
educate and empower children who have the condition.
Jerry the Bear is a teaching tool as well as a source of comfort. Children can check his blood sugar, feed him their own
virtual food selection (with carb counts) and then administer insulin for those carbs — all through augmented-reality
play with a smartphone app.
Partnering with Beyond Type 1, Diabetes NZ will be giving a Jerry the Bear to children aged 4-10 who have been newly
diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, starting in November.
Throughout November, multisport athlete and type 1 diabetic, Emily Wilson, will be taking Jerry on a journey the length
of New Zealand. Wilson will be travelling by bike, kayak, raft, by foot or swimming from Cape Reinga to Bluff. She will
stop at various locations along the way to talk to New Zealanders about type 1 diabetes at special Teddy Bear’s Picnics.
To see when Emily and Jerry will be in your area, visit the Diabetes NZ Facebook page.
Keep yourself healthy
Following last year’s launch of Diabetes NZ’s Take Control Toolkit, this Diabetes Action Month the Toolkit is being
launched as an app to support all New Zealanders to live well.
With about 60 resources to help people manage their health, from reading food labels to foot care, this valuable
information resource is now available in an easy-to-access app for smartphones, at no cost.
“We urge everyone to download the Take Control Toolkit from the App Store or Google Play. It has great information, not
only for people who want to manage their diabetes, but for everyone interested in a healthy lifestyle.”
“Diabetes Action Month is not only for people with diabetes. It affects all New Zealanders, because all of us either
live with or know people with the disease, and everyone is at risk of type 2 diabetes,” said Mr Crew.
“As regards type 2, we really want people to understand what risks they face. Beyond the nearly 240,000 diagnosed cases
in New Zealand, an estimated 100,000 New Zealanders have diabetes without knowing it,” said Mr Crew. “A further one in
four Kiwis have prediabetes – a precursor to type 2 diabetes.”
For people with diabetes, Diabetes NZ provides information, advocacy and support.
Diabetes NZ presents Diabetes Action Month with the support of FitBit, Equal and Natural’s sweeteners and Sanofi.