Diabetes is a complex disease that requires continuous daily care and relies on effective communication between care providers, educators and people with diabetes to achieve the best health outcomes. The language that healthcare professionals and others involved in diabetes treatment use to discuss the disease may impact both self-perception and treatment outcomes for people living with diabetes. A panel of experts from the American Diabetes Association (Association) and the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) have published a Consensus Report to help guide the language used by healthcare providers to be positive, respectful, inclusive, person-centered and strengths-based, acknowledging the paradigm shift in diabetes care toward a collaborative approach that includes people with diabetes as the primary member of their care team. The recommendations reflect the opinions of the expert panel.

The panel’s recommendations, included in the article “The Use of Language in Diabetes Care and Education,”represent the work of the expert task force, which executed an exhaustive review of the literature regarding the impacts of the language used specifically in diabetes care and in health care generally. The task force made five key recommendations for discussing diabetes:

  1. Use language that is neutral, nonjudgmental, and based on facts, actions, or physiology/biology;
  2. Use language that is free from stigma;
  3. Use language that is strengths-based, respectful, inclusive and imparts hope;
  4. Use language that fosters collaboration between patients and providers; and
  5. Use language that is person-centered.

The panel’s recommendations also include a detailed table of commonly used language with potentially negative connotations and suggested replacement language. The panel’s full recommendations will be published in the December 2017 issues of Diabetes Care and The Diabetes Educator. The complete article is available online in Diabetes Care at http://care.diabetesjournals.org/lookup/doi/10.2337/dci17-0041 and The Diabetes Educator at http://bit.ly/2yHE7PV. Additional guidance and tools are available at DiabetesEducator.org/language.

“People with diabetes face both the challenges of managing their diabetes and the added challenge of unfair stigma and judgment from others in society. The language used to describe people with diabetes, to describe management and treatment options and even to discuss how to reduce risk or delay the onset of diabetes can impact how individuals perceive themselves — possibly extending to health outcomes,” said the Association’s Chief Scientific, Medical and Mission Officer William T. Cefalu. “Just as we’ve shifted diabetes treatment to acknowledge the critical role of the person with diabetes in their daily care and advocacy, we must adjust the way we talk about diabetes to empower and reduce the negative stereotypes and judgment about diabetes.”

“As healthcare professionals, researchers, journalists and organizations that serve people with diabetes, it is imperative that we listen to those affected by the disease, understand the challenges they face and support a positive, inclusive environment,“ said AADE President Nancy D’Hondt, RPh, CDE, FAADE. “Modifying how we talk about diabetes is a relatively easy change that can have a profound impact on self-management and outcomes. In this language movement, we hope to steer the conversation around diabetes to something that is both motivating and free of blame.“

About the Author Ashley Ng

Pancreatically challenged, diabetes advocate, PhD student and dietitian - working to make positive changes within the diabetes community and healthcare setting. Although diagnosed at age of 19 with T2DM, the type of diabetes I have is under constant debate. Finally pumping as of March 2014.

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