The roles of media in diabetes care and awareness
Over the years, media has evolved dramatically from print to broadcast (radio and television). Today we have the internet that gives us access to information from unique online news, videos, forums, social networking, instant messaging, online shopping, and games – anytime, anywhere.
Media is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy. Thus, it embraces the role to act against injustice, oppression, misdeeds, and partiality of our society. It acts as watchdog to protect the public interest against malpractice.
In the case of diabetes, there’s a lot of misinformation going on about it. Without proper education, it could mislead the public and aggravate or worsen their condition. So what are the roles of media in diabetes awareness?
- Create health awareness. –It is said that one out of every five Filipinos either has diabetes or is at risk of impaired glucose tolerance. Lack of awareness heightens the risk of diabetes, and this is the first and foremost role of media – create health awareness.
Diabetes comes in two forms: Type 1, which is greatly influenced by genetics and type 2, which is frequently connected to diet and lifestyle. If one experiences any of these warning signs: increased thirst, fatigue, frequent urination, and vision problems, he/she should consult a doctor immediately.
However, about half of people with diabetes don’t know they have it, so it’s important to get checked especially if one is at risk. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include age of 40 and above, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, a family history of diabetes, being overweight, being sedentary, polycystic ovary syndrome, history of giving birth to a baby 8 lbs and over, and having prediabetes.
- Inform – Information dissemination is key to creating awareness. The media plays a crucial role in shaping the public’s thoughts, opinions, lifestyle, consumption pattern, public attitudes, and behavior. Information can be both harmful and beneficial to the public, especially to persons with diabetes who are prone to depression and confusion. Media should make sure that the information is factual, timely, accurate, quick, quality, and efficient.
- Educate – Some people think that diabetes is not a serious disease, but it causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. With good diabetes control, it can reduce one’s risk for complications. There are tons of myths and misconceptions on diabetes that need to be debunked. The public needs proper education about diabetes care and management. Sensationalism must also be avoided.
- Entertain – People think that creating health awareness and/or educating the public is limited to writing articles or publishing straight, boring news. With the variety of outlets that media has right now, it can provide entertainment as well as information via broadcast, digital, outdoor, print, and event organizing and public speaking.
One can produce films, videos, or music, use emails, social media sites, websites, and internet-based radio and television. One can also publish books, comics, magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets. We now have “apps” or applications on our mobile phones, iPads, or tablets.
- Advertise – The media can make use of advertising tools such as billboards, blimps, flying billboards, placards or kiosks placed inside and outside of buses, commercial buildings, shops, sports, stadiums, or commercials, etc. to reach out to people who don’t have access to digital media all the time.
In this case, media must, however, exercise caution when using advertising tools. It must adhere to the code of ethics and there should be no conflict of interest.
- Collaborate – Two heads are better than one, three even more, as they say. The media doesn’t have monopoly of all information so it can collaborate with diabetes societies or groups to help provide education and support to people with diabetes. Facing the condition is not an easy feat, it is a lifetime struggle, but with a good support system all things become bearable, helping patients recover faster.
Unlike in older days, it’s easier to communicate, disseminate information, and influence people, especially with the use of social media: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram where information can easily be shared and reach a wider audience.
But “with great power comes great responsibility”, the power of media should therefore be used responsibly.