A friend of mine is speaking at an event in DC that will include some TV writers that are working on a campaign to promote diabetes awareness specific to management techniques, decrease stigma related to diabetes, and empower those with diabetes to live full and productive lives.

Their hope is to meet these objectives by hitting up mass populations via television programing. She has asked me to help her gather some feedback. So if you have a second could you answer these two questions:

1. What do you think about how diabetes is currently portrayed in television programing?

2. What would you like to see change in television program in reference to the portrayal of people with diabetes?

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I'll start. :)

1. I can't remember the last time I saw a diabetic person in a television program. The only thing I've ever seen are jokes about diabetes.

2. It would be cool to see fictional characters that are living with diabetes and are managing just fine...like many of us are. Maybe a character with a pump or something. Not just characters that are refusing sweets because they are diabetic.
1. My biggest issue with how diabetes is portrayed in the media/television is that there is almost never a distinction made between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Generally, the term "diabetes" is just lumped into a single category. I hate that. And, because the vast majority of diabetics are type 2, it's the type 1s who often get ignored/overlooked/misunderstood. They are two completely different conditions!

2. First, I have never actually seen a person portrayed in a television program that has type 1 diabetes, at least, not that I can remember. I guess that would be a good first step. But that would have to be paired with accurate information, and this is where television always falls short. I just hope that any portrayal of someone with diabetes (type 1 or type 2) involves someone doing their homework.
1. I think diabetes is very poorly portrayed in television programming. First there is no distinction between types, and I feel that TV writers don't portray Diabetics truthfully, they just go along with the wide misconceptions that are already out in the world, thus further supporting them, and the cycle keeps going.

2. I'd like to see real-life situations portrayed, not fake vague scenarios, and truthfully not just scare tactics highlighting the absolute worst case scenarios that *could* happen. Also, It seems the most coverage TV gives to diabetics is a) Obesity and type 2 on weight loss reality programs (i.e. Heavy) and talk shows where "doctors" are still giving false information, or barely any at all, and Type 1 on addiction shows like intervention, portraying all Type I's as having terrible control, and mental health issues or addictions and that they have a death sentence riding on their backs. Why can't it be someone like me who just happened to have her pancreas crap out at age 14, who is married, holds a job, is active in the outdoors, who wants to have children, and does struggle with diabetes daily, but finds ways to deal. Would be nice to see that one day...

Thanks for collecting this info. Very interesting.
The only on-going character I recall living with diabetes in a television program is Christopher Turk from Scrubs, he had type 2. It was suggested that he couldn't ever have sweets, unless of course he was having hypoglycemia, then he'd get excited because his wife would let him have a candy bar.

There is currently a character on Grey's Anatomy (Scott Wolf) who has diabetes due to a partial pancreas removal. In the last episode he called his doctor to come over to the house because he was sweaty and his glucose was 56. Who knows how long it took for her to come over but she brought over pasta saying that was the best thing for him. Couldn't she have encouraged him to drink some juice?
Yeah the juice was an obvious over sight. Also on Grey's Anatomy they have been trying to get a FDA trial running for a possible cure for T1. They have been talking about it for a couple of episodes and hopefully the show will continue on that path by letting the chief get his trial up and running. If that happens then the writers would have to get more clear and in depth information about diabetes to be more accurate since it is a doctor show. I hope this happens....Too many times characters may have diabetes but its not really talked about.
yeah, seriously, and he called HIS DOCTOR because he was a bit hypo?? I mean, OK, on the show he's trying to woo her, but still.
I would be all for it if it was clearly seen as a medically unnecessary play for the girl's attention. Set up as a little devious and totally human play it would be brilliant.

I can't imagine it being written that well.
I actually just got through watching that episode of Grey's Anatomy. The part where they ate pasta was a later scene. In the scene where his blood sugar was 56, the doctor (also the his wife in a marriage of convenience so he would have insurance coverage for his surgery) happened to have a box of cannoli with her and commented that it was a lucky coincidence since it was the perfect thing to eat when his blood sugar was low. Which is also false - since all of the fat in the cannoli would slow down absorption.

I was particularly disappointed since Grey's has been doing pretty well with the diabetes story-line up to that point. Certainly better than any other show I've seen! I heard someone from DRI has been helping the writers get the facts straight - perhaps that is no longer the case.
I've also been really annoyed with all the recent diabetes stuff on Grey's Anatomy. The cannoli thing was terrible, as you say, since it's got a lot of fat in it. And also the fact that since it wasn't made clear that he was just trying to get her to come over or something, it seemed more like he was completely helpless and didn't know how to treat a simple low. Yes, he's new to diabetes, but still...

And I thought I remember that in one of the first episodes about the islet-transplantation trial or whatever, they had some patient in there who was going to get the first surgery, and the things they were saying to the patient/family were just ridiculous, stuff these people would already totally know! (I understand there's a need to have exposition come out somewhere in the script, but I wish they would figure out another way to work it in and not make the diabetic patients look stupid/uninformed/helpless.)
Actually I watched the episode and he was at a 56 and called her over because he didnt have juice or anything. She gave him dessert not pasta..In the second scene she gave him pasta when he wasnt in a low....
1. I think many events in media try to convey diabetes with well-meaning efforts, but the majority of what I see on television talks about diabetes simply as an epidemic tied with obesity, with losing legs, with blindness. They talk about diabetes as purely debilitating, and disease-like Typhoid fever. MTV, for example, was looking for young people living with Type 1 diabetes, but they wanted those who were out of control and struggling. Oprah portrayed the very same thing on her episode about diabetes.

2. I would like the media to show people with diabetes who are empowered. I would like the media to show the d-moms and d-dads who spend 24 hours a day managing their children's diabetes, and explaining that their kids didn't get diabetes because they "fed them too much candy." I would like the media to show that it's more than just syringes and "avoiding candy," that it impacts every part of your life even if you still have all of your toes and fingers. That it impacts how late you can sleep in on Saturdays, how complicated going for a bike ride can be, how simple things like coffee can make your blood sugar go crazy, how insane it is to be expected to count every gram of carbohydrate perfectly...and how it can through your blood sugar for a loop when you've mis-guessed by merely 8 or 10 grams of carbohydates.

I would like the media to get a variety of real patient perspectives...instead of just one or two from the hospital and a doctor.
1. Diabetes is usually a butt end of a bad comedic joke about obesity in the media. It's shown as something that is either a life-ending issue (like on biggest loser) or remarked on after the media shows those waist down b-roll video clips of obese people.

2. The problem is, like what has been said is the type 1 and 2 difference. If someone is on TV with Diabetes do they look different? No. So to the visual eye there is no difference. Of course without complications of course. Honestly I don't think much will change. Type 1 Diabetes is not joke worthy nor does it have the obesity stereotype revolving around it. I just ignore the media stereotype, and change the channel. The refusing candy issue is an interesting one though, that is over blown. The whole "Sugar Diabetes" is soooo 1970's!

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