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Fighting Diabetes  Via Social Media
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Fighting Diabetes Via Social Media

Today (Nov. 14) is World Diabetes Day and in an innovative move, a group of 12 Iranian Instagrammers have taken to the social media to raise awareness of the disease.

Using the power of words and visual story-telling, they will share their unique stories of individuals living with diabetes as well as different events that have been organized, especially for the day.    

World Diabetes Day was introduced in 1991 in response to the alarming rise of the disease globally, by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization. It marks the birth anniversary of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best and John James Rickard Macleod, first conceived the idea which led to the discovery of insulin in 1922.

The event in Iran has been organized by Click design and innovation group in collaboration with the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk and Iran’s Diabetes Education Association, also known as Gabric.

Fortunate to be chosen as one of the Instagrammers for the event, I attended the meeting at Novo Nordisk headquarters in Tehran on Tuesday, where we were briefed about the basics of storytelling by three different artists.

Documentary film maker Robert Safarian, filmmaker and critic Reza Bahrami Nejad and writer Amir Hossein Khorshidfar took turns to tell the group how to communicate their messages with a powerful impact. We were also told how to make the most of social media techniques to ensure that the project receives the exposure it deserves.

Farzaneh Shakibafar, head of the diabetes educational team at Novo Nordisk Iran, spoke briefly about diabetes type one and type two and their differences, while explaining “the rule of halves.” This rule indicates that only half the entire global diabetic population is aware of the fact that they are diabetic.

“This is due to the fact that diabetes, at first, might not have any visible symptoms,” she said, adding that the only way for reliable diagnosis is to get one’s blood sugar tested frequently.

While most diabetic cases are type two, type one accounts for only 5-10% of all cases. Type one usually occurs at a young age while type two is caused by unhealthy lifestyles including poor diets, smoking and lack of exercise. Smokers are 20 times more likely to be diabetic compared to non-smokers.

 Changing Lifestyles

Shakibafar pointed out that due to deteriorating life habits in Iran, the minimum age at which people develop the disease has seen a steep drop from above 45 years to 30 years now and even lower. However, this can change with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

If left untreated, diabetes can affect one’s heart and kidney functions or the nerves of the hands, feet and eyes.

“In Iran, as people do not go for medical checkups on a regular basis, they realize they have diabetes when it is too advanced and start developing visible symptoms,” she said.

The team’s motto is “Changing Diabetes” and to help improve the quality of life for those living with the disease.

 Blue Bus

Novo Nordisk’s team has been holding educational sessions at mosques, schools and hospitals across the country to raise awareness among the general public. Last year, 80,000 Iranians attended educational workshops on diabetes.

The team has also redesigned a bus to look like a medical office. The blue bus tours Tehran making stops where people can have their blood sugar tested. There is also a doctor on board available for consultation.

The bus was in Tehran’s Nahj-ol-Balagheh Park on Friday and Instagrammer Solmaz Malek documented the event.

There are currently five million known cases of diabetes in Iran. It is also estimated that there are just as many cases not diagnosed; this means that there could be nearly 10 million diabetics in the country.

To help raise awareness anyone can join the campaign by sharing stories or photos on all social media platforms and using the hashtags #ChangingDiabetes #WorldDiabetesDay #DiabetesAroudnUs #DiabetesStories #BlueCircle and #WDD2015. The blue circle is the international symbol of diabetes, the color blue is a symbol of the sky and the United Nations flag and the circle symbolizes unity.

To follow the visual stories of all Instagrammers search for the following usernames on Instagram: @alrez_art, @hosseinafshari, @leylamim, @mahsanemat, @moslem.rasouli, @naarvan, @nazaninfatahi, r___zu, @sepidehfarvardin, @sanammche, @solll.m, and myself @nedamonem.

 

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