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Take a Step for Diabetes

Author(s) Beatriz Yáñez1, Martijn Pakker2, Marie-Hélène Charles3, Lorenzo Piemonte 4, Leonor Guariguata 5, Aneta Tyszkiewicz6.
Affiliation(s) 1Programmes and Policy, International Diabetes Federation, Brussels, Belgium, 2Programmes and Policy, International Diabetes Federation, Brussels, Belgium, 3External Relations, International Diabetes Federation, Brussels, Belgium, 4External Relations, International Diabetes Federation, Brussels, Belgium, 5Programmes and Policy, International Diabetes Federation, Brussels, Belgium, 6Programmes and Policy, International Diabetes Federation, Brussels, Belgium.
Country - ies of focus Belgium
Relevant to the conference tracks Advocacy and Communication
Summary Diabetes is a global epidemic that has traditionally lacked proper attention, a situation the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is working to revert through integrated advocacy and communication efforts. IDF pushed for a UN High-Level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases, held in 2011 and resulted in a Political Declaration on NCD prevention and control, placing diabetes high on the global health agenda. IDF also implements campaigns such as “Take a Step for Diabetes” to raise awareness on diabetes to an increasingly broader audience thanks to social media. The combined advocacy and communications efforts result in campaigns to help reduce risk factors and raise awareness on diabetes.
Background Diabetes and Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide - accounting for 34.5 million of the 52.8 million global deaths in 2010 (65%). They exact a heavy and growing toll on physical health, economic security and human development.A global epidemic at crisis levels, diabetes affected 371 million people in 2012 and the number is due to increase to 552 million in 2030.The United Nations Political Declaration on NCD Prevention and Control raised diabetes/NCDs to the top of the international agenda and led to the adoption by the 66th World Health Assembly (WHA) of the Global Monitoring Framework (GMF). This sets out 25 indicators to monitor progress towards the achievement of nine voluntary global targets by 2025 – including halting the rise in diabetes and obesity.

Therefore, advocating for health strategies and promoting social mobilisation to decrease NCD risk factors is vital. This can be achieved through awareness-raising communications that will have a positive effect on improving both diabetes/NCDs management and preventing the rise of new cases of diabetes and NCDs.

Objectives Despite its consequences, diabetes continues to lack proper attention: half of all people with diabetes in 2012 – a shocking 186 million – were undiagnosed and type 2 diabetes is increasing worldwide at an alarming rate. Raising awareness of the risk factors and promoting healthier lifestyles have the double impact of improving diabetes management and halting its rise.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) – whose mission is to promote diabetes care, prevention and a cure worldwide – has two objectives to revert the present situation: advocate for political commitments and increase public awareness.INFLUENCING POLICY
In 2009 IDF, the Union for International Cancer Control, the World Heart Federation and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease formed the NCD Alliance (NCDA), a highly influential civil society force focused on placing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the political agenda.
IDF and NCDA have engaged in high-level advocacy to achieve this effect. IDF and NCDA campaigned for a UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs, held in September 2011 which was a major milestone in the history of diabetes and other NCDs. During the Summit IDF and NCDA influenced political negotiations to secure strong outcomes for diabetes and NCDs. The unanimously adopted Political Declaration on NCD Prevention and Control, opened the door for further advocacy efforts towards a Global Monitoring Framework (GMF). This was finally endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2013. The GMF has 25 indicators to monitor progress to the achievement of nine voluntary global targets by 2025 – including halting the rise in diabetes and obesity.
IDF and NCDA’s work does not finish with the adoption of these global targets. IDF, its Member Associations and NCDA continue to work to monitor the progress governments make on their promises and to press the case for including NCDs in a global development framework post-2015.SOCIAL MOBILISATION
Despite the political will to stop the current diabetes epidemic that is reflected in the adoption of these nine voluntary global targets, there must be more advances. There will be no change unless both people with diabetes, and those at risk of developing the condition, are aware of the risk factors and willing to adopt healthier lifestyles. With that objective IDF has set in motion the social mobilisation campaign “Take a step for diabetes”, as part of the 5-year World Diabetes Day theme “Diabetes: education and prevention”.
Methodology Over the last four years World Diabetes Day has focused on raising awareness of the warning signs and risk factors of diabetes, highlighting the serious global threat that it poses, promoting simple and cost-effective measures to prevent the further rise of type 2 diabetes and the importance of diabetes education from a young age.With the goal of keeping the global commitments on diabetes made during the 2011 UN Summit on NCDs on the global health agenda, IDF launched the 2013 campaign “Take a Step for Diabetes” in March 2013, marking the final year of the “Diabetes: education and prevention” campaign.Conceived as a new way of raising awareness, inspiring local communities and promoting membership “Take a Step for Diabetes” has been designing as an innovating, engaging programme. It encourages people to make a symbolic donation of steps accrued through activities that help promote diabetes awareness, improve the lives of people with diabetes, promote healthy lifestyles or reduce one’s individual risk of developing diabetes. A total of 32 activities – ranging from wearing blue to running a marathon – can be done repeatedly. The aim is to reach 371 million steps – one for each person with diabetes in the world.

The main target groups are IDF member associations, other diabetes-related organisations, young leaders in diabetes, health professionals and community groups promoting healthy nutrition and physical activity. However, everyone – individuals and groups - is invited to register on the campaign website ( and submit steps, providing a short description of the activities performed. The steps are collected on an online platform that displays the total number of steps submitted and the gap to the 371 million target.

This campaign is widely promoted through all IDF communication channels: website, social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), newsletters (IDF, World Diabetes Day, World Diabetes Congress) and events where IDF has a stand. Specific communication materials have also been developed for the campaign including web banners, promotional videos, posters promoting key messages, a smartphone application, merchandise and an online toolkit providing information and resources on diabetes.

The “Take a Step for Diabetes” campaign will be widely promoted in the run up to and on World Diabetes Day – November 14 – and will officially end at the World Diabetes Congress Melbourne 2013 – 2-6 December.

Results The IDF campaign “Take a Step for Diabetes” has been designed to reach not only people and organisations strongly connected with diabetes – IDF regions and member associations, other diabetes-related organisations, community groups active in promoting healthy lifestyles, young leaders in diabetes, health professionals – but everyone who is interested in promoting the diabetes cause and furthering IDF’s mission.One of the campaign’s goals is to involve as many people as possible. The use of social media – mainly Facebook and Twitter – is essential in reaching a broad audience and engaging new publics in constructive dialogue. With more than 21.000 fans on Facebook and 13.000 followers in Twitter informed daily about the campaign, “Take a Step for Diabetes” has proven to be a powerful instrument for social mobilisation.More traditional means of drawing attention to the campaign are also used: the WDD newsletter had over 25.000 subscribers in September 2013 and, since the launch of the campaign in March the WDD website had achieved more than 100.000 views.

By the end of September 2013 over 450 individuals and groups had registered on the campaign online platform and performed around 8000 activities, accruing more than 332 million steps. The achievement of 90% of the target, 371 million steps by December 2013 which is 3 months in advance of the deadline, reflects the campaign’s impact and success.

However, as IDF is encouraging its member associations and other organisations and groups to organise WDD awareness activities – particularly during the month of November and WDD (November 14), a significant hike in the submitted number of steps is expected around those dates. Considering that the initial 371 million steps target will possibly be achieved before then (October), and the campaign does not end officially until the World Diabetes Congress 2013 in December, it is likely that IDF may increase the current steps to make the goal more ambitious.

Once the target is achieved and the campaign is over, IDF will send an open letter to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on behalf the “Take a Step for Diabetes” participants. The great social mobilisation achieved through this campaign will be used to advocate for the global commitments on diabetes made during the 2011 UN Summit on NCDs to be kept on the global health agenda.

Conclusion Diabetes is a massive global burden with brutal health and socio-economic consequences. Although type 2 diabetes – which accounts for the vast majority of the cases worldwide – is largely preventable, the number of affected people is increasing in every single country. Tackling the current situation is a health priority for which interdisciplinary collaboration is imperative.Advocacy and communication are two inextricably linked working areas with the common objective of raising awareness. While advocacy is focused on influencing governments and key authorities to develop more comprehensive policies and strategies, communication promotes dialogue by delivering a series of messages to the general public. Both of them have a big role to play in overcoming the diabetes epidemic.The foundation of the NCD Alliance, of which IDF is founding member, was a clear advocacy milestone in combatting the NCDs and diabetes outbreak. As a network of more than 2,000 organisations, the NCDA is using its powerful voice to press governments into giving urgent response to NCDs as was shown by the UN High Level Meeting in 2011. The adoption of the GMF with its nine voluntary global targets to achieve by 2015 is another NCDA victory.

Political commitments on diabetes and NCDs are of great importance but would have little impact if the population is not aware of the risk factors to which we all are exposed. Communication campaigns such as “Take a Step on Diabetes” are perfect tools to promote healthy lifestyles and raise awareness on those risk factors. Social media has meant a revolution in this discipline, as now it is possible to reach a much broader audience than previously. In addition, an engaged population is another influential force for holding governments accountable for their political commitments.

Advocacy and communication are continuously interacting and frequently the outcome of one discipline can be used as a tool by the other. On the occasion of the achievement of the “Take a Step for Diabetes” campaign target a letter will be sent to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, to continue advocacy efforts on keeping diabetes and the NCDs high on the political agenda. The constant feedback between advocacy and communication is a mechanism that needs to be continuously strengthened, to ensure the best outcomes in the fight against diabetes and NCDs.