I’m feeling generous. Let’s start with the good. Last month I spent 3 hours standing outside my local Tesco supermarket in a spiky, blue wig and a beauty queen-style sash (see accompanying picture if you don’t believe me). Had I gone mad? If I had, I was in good company, as 6,000 people across the UK were similarly attired. We were all taking part in the 3-day Diabetes UK–Tesco Big Collection, to raise money for diabetes. The money will be used to support people living with diabetes; help people to take action to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes; and fund investment into groundbreaking research to find a vaccine for type 1 diabetes. This brings me to a great part of the good – how amazing is it that so many people are willing to volunteer their time for causes like this.* But there’s more to the good: despite the current economic climate, over 3 days, we managed to raise £731.47 at my local Tesco. Across all the Tesco stores in the UK, an incredible £380,608 was raised.

Now for the bad. With the exception of fewer than 10 people, everyone I spoke to the day that I was on collection duty either had diabetes or knew someone with the condition. Of course the people who donated were more likely to be doing so for this very reason, but still. Diabetes UK estimates that 3 million people in the UK currently have diabetes and another 850,000 have type 2 diabetes but have not yet been diagnosed.1 Diabetes is the fastest-growing health threat in the UK; around 7 million adults – that’s one in seven – are at high risk of diabetes, and that number is rising all the time.1 When we look at the number of people across the world with diabetes, it is currently estimated to be 371 million2 and is expected to increase to 439 million by 2030.3 This is approximately equivalent to the entire USA population having diabetes!

Finally, I’m afraid that it’s got to be done: the ugly – and no it’s not me in the blue wig! I’ll introduce it gently… While diabetes is a chronic condition, if managed well, people can lead long and healthy lives. Doctors and nurses can help manage the condition, but they may only see a patient twice a year, so self-management is key. And key to good self-management is being accurately informed. This is where it gets even uglier. I was shocked to discover that many of the people who I met when taking part in the Big Collection were not at all well informed and (perhaps worse), in some cases, very ill-informed. One gentleman ardently informed me that his doctor was to blame for his diabetes, as he’d given him the wrong antibiotic. A lady explained that she’d been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes but, as she’d done such a good job of managing it, she now only had type 2. Another lady proudly told me that she was making her husband – who had diabetes – eat as much fruit as possible, but was unaware that fruit contains sugar. The conversations that I had that day, made me realize just how important patient education is and the key role that organizations like Diabetes UK play in ensuring accurate information is available to people.

Happy World Diabetes Day.

*I would like to thank AXON who, as part of their Giving 10 initiative to mark AXON London’s 10th anniversary, gave me the time off work to participate.


1.   Diabetes UK. http://www.diabetes.org.uk/

2.   International Diabetes Federation. http://www.idf.org/

3.   Shaw JE, Sicree RA, Zimmet PZ. Global estimates of the prevalence of diabetes for 2010 and 2030. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2010; 87: 4-14

Emma Kenny