Those two words were woven through a Sunday morning address by Alvin C. Powers, MD, ADA President, Medicine & Science.
Today’s researchers and clinicians work in a 140-character, 24-hour news cycle, understanding that messaging is critical when trying to get the public’s attention, gain notice from colleagues, gather more health care resources, and receive grants. But Dr. Powers said health care providers and scientists have a responsibility to provide credible, reliable, and complete information to all.
“How we talk about diabetes sets the tone for how the general public views challenges related to diabetes,” Dr. Powers said during his presidential address Diabetes—Challenges and Opportunities for Society, Science, and You (and the ADA).
Everybody has a place in the “diabetes ecosystem,” which puts the patient in the center surrounded by a circle of friends, family, community, and professionals, with the ADA surrounding that circle, Dr. Powers said. In these tumultuous times, the diabetes ecosystem has a chance to speak with a unified voice, he added.
“Science is the foundation for diabetes clinical care research. Unfortunately, science is under attack, with declining credibility with the public and some government officials. We must raise our voices to advocate for science and research. Words matter. So I ask you to raise your voice,” said Dr. Powers, eliciting applause from the audience.
Just like a speaker who makes a disclosure before a presentation when there may be bias or uncertainty, Dr. Powers said, the diabetes ecosystem needs to disclose the challenges for improving the lives of those with diabetes. He listed those disclosures as:
- We do not know what causes type 1 diabetes
- We do not know what causes type 2 diabetes
- We do not know how many types of diabetes there are
- We cannot classify hyperglycemia intelligently
- We do not have effective strategies for sustained weight loss or behavior modification
- Support for diabetes-related research does not match the scope of the problem
- Clinical care is often inadequate or unaffordable
“If we’re to meet the size, the scope, the urgency of the challenges related to diabetes, it will require a new level of discovery, engagement, and joint collaboration. It will take you. It will take all of us,” he said.
ADA’s just completed strategic plan will help the ecosystem meet those goals. It focuses on three areas: Drive Discovery, Support People, and Raise Voices.
Dr. Powers called for research, partnerships, and innovation on a global scale. Those collaborations will drive discoveries that will help prevent, and eventually cure diabetes.
“So if you’re a young graduate student, a scientist, a technology developer, or even if you’re an old person in the diabetes ecosystem like me, we invite you to dedicate yourself to make the discoveries and make a difference,” Dr. Powers said.
The ADA’s Pathway to Stop Diabetes® initiative invests in people rather than projects, attracting outstanding scientists early in their careers and providing them with freedom to innovate and discover.
Dr. Powers said the ADA is also raising its voice and helping others do the same through new campaigns that counter misinformation about diabetes. In April, ADA representatives visited Washington, D.C., to meet face-to-face with members of Congress to push for increased research funding and more affordable diabetes care.
Dr. Powers called on the audience to become diabetes advocates and engage with their communities and the ADA, to step outside their current role in the diabetes ecosystem, to communicate with patients and their communities about the importance of science, to donate to diabetes research, and to volunteer with the ADA.
“If we drive discovery, if we support people, and we raise our collective voices, our future disclosure may look like this: We will know what causes type 1 diabetes. We will know what causes type 2 diabetes. We will prevent most forms of diabetes. We will classify diabetes and hyperglycemia intelligently. This will lead to individualized, personalized therapy. We will have effective strategies for sustained weight loss and behavior modification. The support for diabetes-related research will match the scope of the challenge. And our final, future disclosure will be that clinical care will be comprehensive, evidence-based, and affordable,” Dr. Powers said.