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April 24, 2014
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Red Dresses and Anecdotal Evidence


Sometimes, real life hands me topics for posts and pleasure, and sometimes, there are "soapbox" issues on which I feel I must speak out. Often the "issues" arise from my being a "pattern thinker": I synthesize information by finding patterns. This means I often see patterns where others don't -- but that doesn't mean the patterns are real. Just like I need to analyze blood glucose logs to make sure that pattern of highs and lows I think I'm seeing is real, I need to research and observe to see if other patterns I think I'm seeing are real, or just my subjective impressions.

 

One soapbox/education issue I've been looking up recently is the evolution of the Go Red for Women campaign. I'm doing this because I remember it taking several years from the time I first became aware of the campaign's iconic Red Dress until it became almost as recognizeable as breast cancer awareness's pink ribbon, so I have to ask: could it be at all the blue circle of World Diabetes Day needs for recognition is time?

 

While I started with certain theories about why the public at large recognizes the pink ribbon, the red ribbon of AIDS awareness, and the red dress -- but not the blue circle -- I had no proof. Without that proof, it's hard to figure out who we (the diabetes community) need to "get on the bandwagon", and (to continue the metaphor) what sort of music we need to play to entice the crowds.

 

Having a "gut feeling" that something is so, based on a few isolated readings or a few reports from friends, does not make it any less true or false for the individuals involved; on the other hand, it doesn't make for a strong argument for the doctors, scientists, actuaries, and politicians who to a large degree determine the professional care we receive. What we have is anecdotal evidence, based on the personal accounts (stories) of what we have personally experienced, rather than the statistical evidence "whitecoats" need. We may forget that when we started adding cinnamon pills after dinner that we changed our dinner starch from bakery rolls to steamed whole grains, and discount the possible difference of switching from bread to brown and wild rices, spelt, and barley. Maybe we also had reason to shovel snow and have snowball fights afterwards. Any of these may cause an improvement in our blood glucose levels, but we heard so much about those cinnamon pills that we're fully convinced they're the cure for Type 2 diabetes.

 

Now, it could be that I'm overestimating the recognizability of the Red Dress -- I mean, last year I did have to explain it to my manager, who was already aware that the company whose goods we were selling was an active contributor to Go Red For Women -- but I have seen enough views of the annual fashion show on TV (albeit mostly on morning newsmagazine shows, health newsmagazine shows, and fashion-news shows), as well as artifacts such as the Red Dress Christmas ornament CVS sold a couple of years ago, to know that it's not invisible. On the other hand, its visibility is growing.

 

Fortunately, for this sort of research I didn't need in-depth, peer-reviewed statistical analyses with pages of references and raw data. Wikipedia gave me enough information to disprove my initial theory, at least as it applies to the pink breast-cancer ribbon -- in part because I had misremembered it inspiring the red AIDS-awareness ribbon, rather than being inspired by it -- but the exercise brought to mind several other issues and options for associating the World Diabetes Circle and Diabetes Awareness in the minds of the general public.

 

The blue circle may never become as recognizeable as the pink ribbon, but maybe, over time, it might become well-known enough to solicit inquiry, understanding nods, greater awareness of what diabetes really is, and acceptance of people with diabetes and the lifestyle it requires of us. If nothing else, it may prevent unexpected, unsolicited, and unhelpful stereotypes.



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Megan Holmes
Megan Holmes Megan was diagnosed in 2009 with Type I. As an RN, she was familiar with the medical side of her diagnosis; learning to be a good patient on the other hand, was and continues to be the challenge of her day to day life.   (Read More)
Michelle Kowalski
Michelle Kowalski Michelle Kowalski, a writer, editor and photography hobbiest living in Phoenix, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in February 2005. In January 2008, as part of her quest to start on an insulin pump, Michelle learned that she actually has type 1 diabetes.   (Read More)
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