Panorama – definition: ‘a complete survey or presentation of a subject’ – by Chris Askew

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This week’s Panorama special, ‘Diabetes – The Hidden Killer’, certainly couldn’t claim to be that, and has split opinions in the diabetes community, with the full range of response on social media from ‘I liked the programme, its production and its message’ to ‘how about a bit of balance ..stop scaring, start educating’.

Certainly, the show generated a lot of interest – predominantly around Type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes UK website took the second highest number of hits ever over a 24 hour period, with 15,000 visits between 8pm and 10pm alone, and our Helpline was especially busy the next day. And yes, it’s true, the programme had a relatively narrow focus and was factually incorrect in at least one instance (and we have picked that up with the producers). But then this is Panorama, with a pedigree in investigative, high profile, audience capturing and challenging journalism and whilst it took a select view of its topic, what it covered were undeniably ‘the facts on the ground’ of day to day practice at Birmingham’s Heartlands Hospital. Facts which millions in our country – many of whom are, or may be, at risk of Type 2 diabetes – were up to now unaware of. Facts which underpin the importance of the work which so many in our community – people living with all types of diabetes, clinicians across a range of disciplines, DSN’s, public health practitioners, campaigners, politicians – get about day in and day out. And yes – facts which, in their telling, can alarm, scare and distress. And perhaps, facts which persuade those who hold the purse strings or who commission services to continue to prioritise best possible care and support in all cases of diabetes. Facts which, at Diabetes UK, we hope we can convert into greater support from the public for world-ranking research into every area of discovery in diabetes.

On the question of balance, let’s remember that a programme which sought to cover every type of diabetes, sought to reflect every experience of and perspective on diabetes, that aimed to broadcast the scale of diabetes and then provide answers to how we meet that, at a personal and societal level, would run to several hours – and to what end and for what audience?

And then to the charge of alarmist journalism; yes – programmes like Panorama will seek to create headlines; we all know that. It is for those of us who provide support of any kind, whether in the clinic or research lab, through the online community, through providing helplines and online resources, through peer to peer support in our communities – to provide the facts and the support to ensure we all have the knowledge and help we need. We know from our thousands of new website visitors and from those who phoned in, that most were reaching out for the facts and for advice, on signs and symptoms, on lowering risk of Type 2, on what causes different types of diabetes. That represents a massive opportunity to spread understanding, to diminish ignorance or misunderstanding, to provide support where it is needed or sought, to keep up the case for the best possible care and support and to bring new resources to the research bench. For that, I welcome Panorama’s show.

And whilst we have to maximise the opportunity of these types of media moments, we should reflect on the truly panoramic picture in diabetes, in which there is much to be positive about, whether that is the recent news of £40million of improvement funding in diabetes in England, of developments across the pond in the provision of artificial pancreas – or the day to day stories I hear at Diabetes UK of the achievements of Clinical Champions, patient advocates and Diabetes Voices, clinicians and DSN’s, people living with diabetes, basic and clinical researchers, fundraisers and supporters – all winning through day after day, in meeting the challenges in diabetes.

Read Chris’s other blogs.

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