the power of words in diabetes

The Power of Words in Diabetes

Would you rather be called a diabetic, or a person with diabetes (PWD)?

Last week, the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Diabetes Educators came out with new recommendations on the language used in relation to diabetes care. The new recommendations are focused on creating a better environment to motivate people with diabetes to manage their health.

Here are some of the new recommendations:

  1. Use language that is neutral, nonjudgmental, and based on facts, actions, or physiology/biology. For example, use the word “manage” instead of “control.”
  2. Use language that is free from stigma. For example, don’t use the words “compliant” or “noncompliant.”
  3. Use language that is strengths-based, respectful, inclusive, and that imparts hope.
  4. Use language that fosters collaboration between patients and providers. For example, rather than “can” and “can’t,” use “May I make a suggestion” or “What is your plan for…?”
  5. Use language that is person-centered. For example, “people with diabetes” not
    “diabetics.” This way the whole person’s life is not centered on having diabetes – he or she is a person first.

The document “The Use of Language in Diabetes Care and Education” was published October 17 in both Diabetes Care and Diabetes Educator.

Using negative language over time can undermine a person’s self-management efforts. The type of language used by doctors and educators has the power either to empower and uplift or add to an already stressful life living with diabetes.

These new language recommendations go along with the new shift to the patient being the center of a care team, rather than a doctor just telling the patient what to do. When a person is motivated to take their care seriously and take responsibility, results will be better.

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