When the Stop Diabetes® movement launched in November of 2009, the American Diabetes Association knew it was starting something new – a movement to change the projected history of a disease. When I first heard about it, I thought it was going to be an interesting process to experience, one filled with the all kinds of stories and passion from across the diabetes community.
One of the most dedicated and passionate people I know is, in fact, one of the creators of the Stop Diabetes movement: the American Diabetes Association’s own Lois Witkop, MBA, Senior Vice President Marketing Communications.
In late 2010, the Stop Diabetes movement gained its millionth supporter. One million people in a year! This was a goal from the beginning and I remember that Lois never batted an eyelash at the thought of recruiting one million supporters in a year. In light of this recent success, I thought it would be a good time to learn a little about Lois’ perspective on the Stop Diabetes movement’s success and future goals.
First off, what brought you to the Association?
I came to the American Diabetes Association a little more than five years ago. I was attracted to the idea of working for a voluntary health organization and hoping that my work could make a difference. At the time, I didn’t think I had any personal connection to diabetes. Honestly, like so many people today, diabetes wasn’t really on my radar screen.
Once I joined the Association, my education about diabetes was rapid, and my eyes were opened quickly to the urgency of this growing epidemic. I also found, to my astonishment, that my father-in-law, who lives several states away, had been living with type 2 diabetes for a number of years. No one in the family had ever mentioned it, and my husband didn’t even know. It crystallized so many things for me about why our work here at the American Diabetes Association is so important. It is stories like mine and like the ones we see on stopdiabetes.com every day that really underscore why the Stop Diabetes movement is so important.
In the initial blog post, I outlined some of the reasons for starting the Stop Diabetes movement. Is there anything you’d like to add to that or expand on in terms of the early history of the movement?
I think the original blog post really hit on one of the most important aspects of the Stop Diabetes movement – that it truly is personal. Everyone has their own reason for why they want to Stop Diabetes. For me, it’s about making sure that families who are impacted by this disease aren’t afraid to talk about it. It’s about stopping the silent suffering and providing resources and opportunities for dialogue that can foster a healthy outlook on life.
While everyone has their own personal story, I think we can also all relate to some of the bigger goals that Stop Diabetes represents – the need to stop misinformation, to stop discrimination, to find a cure. The Association has an important and inclusive mission – to prevent and cure diabetes and improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. The Stop Diabetes movement is truly reflective of our mission and inclusive of all the audiences we serve.
What caused you and your team to set the goal at one million each year? What does it mean to be counted when you join the Stop Diabetes movement?
One million is a nice big number! And we reached it in the first year, which is exciting. What we are counting is how many NEW people have engaged with the Association and taken an action – who chose to SHARE, ACT, LEARN, or GIVE to help us Stop Diabetes. Many of these individuals helped us financially, making a donation or fundraising on our behalf in one of our signature fundraising events, Tour de Cure or Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes event. Some shared their stories with us at stopdiabetes.com or signed up to be a diabetes advocate. Others took our online risk assessment to understand their own personal risk for type 2 diabetes. These aren’t the only actions we captured, but you get the idea. The great thing about the million is that it represents people new to the Association and our cause, and reflects a wide range of engagement activities that span our mission. We are proud of our success, but know that this is just the beginning.
What stands out to you in the first year of the movement? Successes? Personal stories or encounters?
Definitely the stories. The amount of passion, sincerity and dedication to this cause is overwhelming. There are SO many people out there that are touched by this disease. So many of us are familiar with the statistics – nearly 26 million children and adults in the US living with this disease – but what we don’t always see is the greater impact diabetes has on the friends and families of these individuals. Their stories of love, loss, dedication and determination are truly awe inspiring. A highlight was definitely the video contest we ran during November – American Diabetes Month – some really tremendous and inspirational stories!
Overall we were really pleased with the way Stop Diabetes gained momentum throughout the year, and how people seemed to come to understand that the message of the movement is not singular in nature but certainly very personal. As that idea gets more traction I think the movement will continue to grow and more and more people will become aware of the seriousness of diabetes as a disease and the need to get involved and take action.
I’m looking forward to watching the Stop Diabetes movement gain momentum and make progress. Are there any sneak-peeks you can give us that you anticipate in the coming months?
I am very excited about our plans for American Diabetes Association Alert DaySM, which happens on March 22nd this year. But I really can’t give away any of the details – except that I hope people will be ready to Join the MillionsSM and spread the word to help us Stop Diabetes. As the movement continues to grow, I am looking forward to hearing from more and more people who have taken this cause to heart. I think it’s going to be a great year!
If you could tell the world one thing about diabetes, what would it be?
Don’t be fooled. Diabetes is a disease that takes an incredible toll on everyone it touches.
Thanks to Lois for her dedication to stopping diabetes and the way it affects our lives! If you’d like to learn more about the Stop Diabetes movement, please visit stopdiabetes.com to see what is coming up in the future.
P.S. Do you know what else we accomplished during American Diabetes Month last year? Bloggers who decided to blog about diabetes every day of the month! Check out our blogroll to see who successfully completed the challenge and be sure to read what they’re blogging about now. Thanks to everyone!