“D” The Word
And 8 other terms the diabetes world could live without
By Ellen D. Davis, RN, MS, CDE, FAADE; Michelle Pearce, PhD; and
Bryan C. Batch, MD, Duke University Health System
Let’s get one thing straight: Your diabetes doesn’t define you. Character is forged by our life experiences and your environment— not by how well your pancreas works.
Yet we allow certain terms to creep into our
vernacular until we’re defining ourselves and others,
too. That needs to stop, starting with the words
and phrases below.
There’s a reason the American Diabetes
Association, Diabetes Forecast, and most scientific
journals avoid using the term “diabetic” as a noun:
People with the disease are diverse individuals,
not a single entity. Some people identify
themselves as “diabetics” and find that the term
provides a useful narrative framework in which
they manage the realities of living with the
condition. But not everyone feels that way.
Many people with diabetes see the term as
stigmatizing. They advocate that the language
used to describe the condition and the person
living with the condition be carefully
distinguished. Another reason “diabetic” should
be scrapped? Defining a group of individuals
with a similar disease by their condition may
prevent others, including family members and
health care providers, from thinking about
their experiences and needs as individuals.
People speak about “bad” glucose readings, a
“bad” A1C, or an overall “bad” day. But the data
don’t define you. That is, you are not your number.
The idea of a “bad” number can unintentionally
discourage self-monitoring by focusing attention on
a so-called mistake. It’s a poor motivator for ongoing,
upbeat self-care, especially when a person already
carries around guilt (such as, “It’s my fault I have
diabetes”). Using the word “bad” to refer to blood
glucose or A1C numbers also hinders collaboration
with health care providers. Revealing blood glucose
records to a doctor can be intimidating, especially
if you anticipate hearing about how “bad” your
That’s why doing away with the idea of “bad”
numbers is crucial. Sharing home-monitoring
trends and engaging in mutual problem solving
enables people with diabetes and providers to
evaluate and, if necessary, try other strategies.
34 AUGUST 2012
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