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Attempt to tackle diabetes stigma

A diabetes representative says there needs to be more education to reduce the stigma attached to the health condition.

A survey found half of New Zealanders with diabetes stopped talking to their families, friends, and medical professionals due to fear of judgement.

There are 2691 people with diabetes in Wairarapa, with about 10 per cent of those type 1, according to 2021 Ministry of Health data.

Within Wairarapa, 2042 were European, 521 were Maori, 86 were Pacific, and 42 were Indian.

Diabetes Wairarapa secretary and mother whose 4-year-old son is diabetic Georgina Kilmister said there was a lot of judgement from older generations.

“That’s not to blame them specifically. Back then Type 1 diabetics weren’t able to eat a lot of food and were frowned upon for having sugar.

“We are advised by health professionals that my son is a kid first and a diabetic second.

“He can eat whatever he likes and he has insulin to help his body process it.

“We still have family hesitating when offering food and giving sugar-free alternatives which is totally okay, but he is a normal kid with a normal diet and just needs insulin to help process it.”

However, she also experienced blame for her son developing the condition, and there was confusion between type 1 and type 2.

“When telling people in our community at kindy or people that notice his insulin pump, I’ve had comments such as ‘how? He’s so young’, ‘so what does he eat’ and ‘it must be something the mother is doing to make him a diabetic’.

“Type 1 is an autoimmune condition and cannot be prevented but that doesn’t stop people from automatically assuming that I, as a parent caused his diabetes.”

Kilmister said she also had misconceptions before her son’s diagnosis.

“We try to educate people so we can avoid that stigma and hope my son grows up without ever feeling ashamed over a health condition he has no control over.

“There is definitely a lack of education and a lot of ignorance around diabetes, but I was one of those people pre-diagnosis as well so I don’t hold against anyone.”

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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