Tackling stigma in diabetes – how primary care professionals can support patients in their diabetes journey
With diabetes prevalence expected to reach almost 5.5 million across the UK by 2030¹, results from a first-of-its-kind survey by Abbott has identified a clear disconnect between the perceptions of the British public and those living with diabetes when it comes to stigma surrounding the condition.
The disconnect between the stigma experienced by people with diabetes and the general public’s lack of awareness of it, suggests widespread unconscious bias towards those with diabetes, which can lead to negative effects on emotional wellbeing and health outcomes.²,³ Roughly one in four (24%) people with diabetes surveyed agree that others’ opinions have affected their ability to manage their condition⁴.
GPs are often the first port of call in someone’s diabetes journey, it’s usually where people receive a diagnosis therefore, they can shape future interactions and set that individual up for more positive outcomes. Professor Deborah Christie, Professor of Paediatric and Adolescent Psychology and consultant clinical psychologist at University College Hospital London provides her thoughts on the role of GPs in tackling stigma:
“When someone visits their GP for answers to their health concerns, they may already be feeling anxious. A diabetes diagnosis will be memorable for the patient, and as a GP you can guide the patient’s very first consultation, which will help shape their future interactions with other healthcare professionals along their diabetes journey.”
Professor Christie also addresses unconscious bias and how that can affect patients with diabetes:
“Patients may feel like they are being blamed for not managing their condition properly. This can lead to frustration, which could make them less likely to go their GP with other health related conditions. The way GPs approach a consultation can influence how the patient responds and manages their diabetes. GPs can choose words and phrases that are more empathetic, empowering, and positive; doctors can help patients better understand their diabetes, treatment options, and overall healthcare journey. When carrying out regular check-up appointments with patients who are living with diabetes, it is important to address the perceived power dynamic and be aware of unconscious behaviours that could have a negative impact on the patient experience and health outcomes.
As a healthcare professional, you can reframe the language you use, putting an end to blame and repositioning. Consider framing consultation questions around:
o How can I be useful to you today?
o Where do you want to get to?
o What can I do to support you?
o How important is it for you?”
“When GPs have more positive and effective interactions with their patients, it can contribute to their job satisfaction, overall wellbeing, and even their effectiveness as healthcare providers”.
Abbott has launched the Let’s Change Perspective campaign in the UK to explore the impact of unconscious bias and to help change the conversation around diabetes. GP’s can now access the new tool, the Let’s Change Perspective Guide, developed in partnership with people with diabetes and Professor Christie, with input and guidance from Diabetes UK.
Visit the Abbott stand D25 to listen to real-life experiences of using the FreeStyle Libre 2 system for diabetes management.
1. Diabetes UK. 2021. 1-in-10 adults living with diabetes by 2030. 1-in-10 adults living with diabetes by 2030 | Diabetes UK Accessed September 2023
2. Valentine V. 2019. The most important thing we give to people is hope: Overcoming stigma in diabetes and obesity. ADA Outstanding educator in diabetes award lecture. 33 (1): 89–94.
3. Liu NF. 2017. Stigma in people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Clinical Diabetes. 35 (1): 27–34
4. Data on file. Abbott Diabetes Care. Survey among 1,500 participants in the UK, 2022.
ADC-82998 v1.0 10/23