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Diabetes Qualified

Let them eat cake – only if they want to

Let them eat cake – only if they want to

By Carolien Koreneff, CDE-RN

None of us like to be judged for the food choices we make, but for two-thirds of people with type 1 diabetes and over one-third of those with type 2 diabetes, they have experienced this judgment and shame.1 This statistic jumps to over 80% when you include other forms of stigmas, such as injecting insulin or checking glucose levels.1 So, how can we, as health professionals, contribute to ending diabetes stigma? Here are some strategies:

Education and awareness

Part of our role is educating clients and the public about the true causes of diabetes, including genetic and environmental factors. Knowledge helps dispel myths and misconceptions about diabetes, lessening blame or shame associated with the condition. For instance, 50% of people with type 1 diabetes have experienced a situation where someone assumes having diabetes is their fault.1

Language matters

The language we use can significantly impact a client’s emotional well-being. It is important to use words that are accurate, respectful, inclusive and free from judgement. Using person-first language, like “person living with diabetes” rather than “diabetic,” emphasises that diabetes is just one aspect of an individual’s identity.

The Using Supporting Language course as a way of learning about respectful, inclusive and free from judgement conversations and is available to everyone for free.

Culturally competent care

Acknowledge that diabetes stigma might intersect with cultural beliefs and practices. Customise care plans to accommodate clients’ cultural backgrounds and preferences, promoting a more personalised and effective approach.

Empowerment through knowledge

Provide clients with comprehensive information about diabetes, its management, and the importance of treatment adherence. When clients have a clear understanding of their condition, they are better equipped to make informed decisions and advocate for themselves.

Emotional support

Recognise the emotional toll of living with diabetes. Over 25% of people say attitudes and stereotypes about diabetes have impacted their emotional and mental well-being, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, and distress.1 Offer clients a safe space to express their feelings and concerns, and consider making referrals to mental health professionals when necessary.

Advocacy and policy

Health professionals can actively participate in advocacy efforts to raise awareness about diabetes stigma and push for policy changes that prioritise equitable treatment and resources for all individuals with diabetes.

Take the Pledge – End Diabetes Stigma and Discrimination represents an advocacy opportunity for both organisations and individuals. This global movement aims to eradicate diabetes stigma and create a more compassionate and respectful world for people living with diabetes, free from judgement and shame.

Additionally, health professionals can contribute by being role models who demonstrate empathy, respect, and sensitivity in their interactions with clients. This approach sets the tone for a compassionate healthcare environment and reinforces the broader goal of eliminating diabetes-related stigma.

By implementing these strategies, we can create a more inclusive environment that empowers people with diabetes to lead healthier lives, without the added burden of stigma.  


1.     Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD). Diabetes has an image problem – and here’s why it matters [internet]. (2021) [cited 15th Dec 2023]. Available from: https://acbrd.org.au/2021/07/19/diabetes-has-an-image-problem-and-heres-why-it-matters/