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How Our Messages Make a Difference for People with Diabetes

Nov 13, 2017

Words are part of each person’s context; people interpret messages and create meaning. For people with diabetes, the words they hear, see and read every day can be helpful or hurtful. Words can contribute to an already stressful disease experience. Health care professionals have an opportunity to become aware of the impact our messages have and change the language of diabetes by choosing empowering, strengths-based and person-centered words. Diabetes Australia, IDF, and now the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the American Diabetes Association have published statements about the use of language in diabetes care and education. The time has come to make sure that all health care professionals, journalists, research scientists, academics, and eventually the general public understand the importance of a language movement in diabetes.

The joint paper published by AADE and ADA last month, provided five evidence-informed recommendations for improving the language in diabetes:
Use language that
1)    Is neutral, non-judgmental, and based on facts, actions, or physiology/biology
2)    Is free from stigma
3)    Is strengths-based, respectful, inclusive, and imparts hope
4)    Fosters collaboration between patients and providers
5)    Is person-centered


This discussion will provide an opportunity to examine the words frequently used to discuss diabetes and the people living with it. We will look at how these words can be interpreted and how choosing more helpful words can potentially lead to better outcomes.

  1. Do you think about the words you choose when communicating with and about people who have diabetes?

  2. What negative words are you aware of in the language of diabetes?

  3. Why do you think language makes a difference?

  4. How do you encourage others to change their language? 


Information about the discussion leader

This discussion will be moderated by Jane K. Dickinson, RN, PhD, CDE from the United States. Jane K. Dickinson is a nurse and certified diabetes educator. She has been serving people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, their families, and health care professionals for more than 20 years. Jane currently oversees and teaches in the solely online Master of Science in Diabetes Education and Management Program at Teachers College Columbia University. Jane's research focuses on people's experience living with diabetes and how diabetes professionals can work successfully with people through empowerment and strengths based approaches. Her passion is changing the language of diabetes. Jane believes in creating a trusting environment through spoken, written and body language. Jane is the author of two books: Diabetes Karma and People with Diabetes Can Eat Anything: It's All About Balance. Jane has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1975; she believes that a positive attitude and sense of humor are keys to success.


Dickinson, J.K., Guzman, S.J., Maryniuk, M.D., O’Brian, C.A., Kadohiro, J.K., Jackson, R.A., D’Hondt, N., Montgomery, B., Close, K.L., & Funnell, M.M. (2017). The use of language in diabetes care and education. Diabetes Care.

International Diabetes Federation. (2015). Language Philosophy. [online] Available at:

Diabetes Australia. (2016). Position Statement A new language for diabetes. [online] Available at: (2017). Diabetes Language Guidance. [online] Available at: