The History and Significance of National Diabetes Awareness Month

Arianna Gehan
Published in
3 min readNov 4, 2022

Happy National Diabetes Awareness Month (NDAM)!

While us diabetics are always aware of our diabetes, this month marks a special time where we can come together as a community to celebrate policy and research advancements and advocate for further improvements.

This month-long recognition was started by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) in 1975, but it gained little attention until Ronald Reagan acknowledged it in 1981. World Diabetes Day came even later, being declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Diabetes Federation (IDF) in 1991. November 14th was selected because it is the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who is credited with the discovery of insulin.

Diabetes Awareness Month has a plethora of different goals. Many organizations use this month to promote increased engagement. Advocates meet with their local lawmakers to discuss policies that will help support the diabetic community, such as caps on insulin prices. It is also a great time for charities to raise funds to go towards research. While the quality of care has greatly improved, the technology can always get better, and of course the ultimate goal is to find a cure.

This month is also used for educational purposes. Part of this includes highlighting the different types of diabetes:

- Type One Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that is genetic and cannot be prevented. It occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin.

- Type Two Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to absorb insulin into the cells, also resulting in elevated blood sugar levels.

- Gestational Diabetes occurs in pregnant women who do not have diabetes. There are often no symptoms associated with it, but it can increase the risk of the baby developing Type Two Diabetes later in life.

- There are other forms of diabetes that are acknowledged, such as Type 3c where somebody completely lacks a pancreas!

Another form of education is discussing the signs and symptoms of this disease so people can recognize them sooner and hopefully get a diagnosis before entering Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). The symptoms of Type One Diabetes include increased thirst and urination, hunger, unintentional weight loss, weakness, irritability, and blurry vision.

Education is also about ending the numerous stigmas that surround diabetes. Many negative stereotypes stem from ignorance about the disorder. Diabetics are often blamed for having the disease, or people make incorrect assumptions about their diet and lifestyle. The reality is that diabetes is a highly personal journey that is different for everybody. When somebody makes an ignorant comment about diabetes, it is a great opportunity to educate them about the facts of the disease. That being said, diabetics are not responsible for the education of others and should only share their knowledge and experiences when they feel comfortable in doing so.

Diabetics are constantly aware of this disease, even outside of the month of November. But NDAM is a great time to reflect on the power of the diabetic community to acknowledge the policies put in place, research advancements that have been made, and the sense of camaraderie and support that is built in the shared struggle.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash