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Sep 19

Celebrating the Passionate Side of Advocacy at Unite for a Healthy Future

Celebrating the Passionate Side of Advocacy at Unite for a Healthy FutureLaura Kolodjeski

The facts and figures around diabetes can be so stark that public health campaigns are often built around bombarding people with numbers. That’s not a bad approach: the numbers are so dramatic that policymakers, understandably, often begin by pointing to the evidence when defining diabetes as a growing epidemic. But statistics aren’t the only way to turn heads and win hearts in the fight against diabetes. We can also fight the disease through community, through art, through passion.

All three of these techniques were on display at the Unite for a Healthy Future event yesterday in Central Park, organized and supported by groups such as the International Diabetes Federation and the Diabetes Hands Foundation just to name a couple. I wrote last week about how excited I was about the event, and my excitement was justified. Not only did I see, and finally meet, a number of DOC friends (thanks for the tweets, @askmanny!), but I was inspired in a number of ways.

First, I had the chance to see Regina Holliday (@ReginaHolliday) at work. Regina, for those who haven’t had a chance to see her work, is an extraordinary artist who seeks to tell stories about health and compassion through her painting. She was working on both a mural for the event as well as showcasing one of the other projects in which she is involved: a Walking Gallery, in which she, and others, paint jackets showcasing individual, personal narratives. Her work has an emotional punch that numbers can’t always convey.

Celebrating the Passionate Side of Advocacy at Unite for a Healthy Future
Regina Holliday and Manny Hernandez show off the Walking Gallery exhibit at Unite for a Healthy Future event in New York City.

Second, I saw SocaMotion – a group promoting fitness through Caribbean-themed dancing – perform. The message they were passing along about the role of exercise wasn’t new, but the way they presented it was uniquely entertaining and inspiring.

Finally, the lineup of speakers illustrated the diverse passions that drive the fight against diabetes. Bongi Ngema-Zuma, First Lady of South Africa, spoke about how she is inspired to promote diet and exercise after seeing her mother live with diabetes for 20 years. Phil Southerland then spoke on his dream to prevent the onset of diabetes and mitigate its impact through exercise. And Jean Claude Mbanya, president of the International Diabetes Federation, who is from Cameroon, gave a closing statement, inspiring us to share our common dreams to make them come true.

The Unite for a Healthy Future event was held in advance of the two-day United Nations summit on noncommunicable diseases, which began today. That event will be extraordinary in its own way. It is only the second time the UN has held a summit on health issues. But the summit will be based – as it should be – on the numbers and statistics on public health. And so it was nice to have a day like yesterday to celebrate the other - more passionate – side of diabetes advocacy.

All the best,

Laura K.

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