A ninth-grade Social Studies paper introduced me to Godfrey Higgins’ Anacalypsis, a somewhat-controversial tome on comparative religion. What little of it I read helped me solidify a logical argument for mankind’s many systems of religious belief: presupposing the existence of a single, omnisicent Deity Who requires the worship of Mankind, it is in His best interest to present Himself to each people in the way that they are most likely to understand, and in a way which makes each more likely to accept Him and worship Him.
The secular version of this is, “If you want people to listen, talk to them in their own language. If you want them to act on that information, expect actions that fall within, or close to, their current set of actions (or the actions normal to that culture).”
This week, The Lancet’s call for essays for their annual Wakley Prize linked to last year’s winner: an essay about a Cree man in Saskatchewan living with diabetes. It was an extremely touching essay highlighting how education and treatment for diabetes in a different culture – in her case, a grossly underserved minority community – needs to be addressed in that culture’s idiom, according to its cultural norms and realities, for that education and treatment to be accepted by the community.
A recent dLife segment about travel to Guatemala highlighted local plants used in the treatment of insulin-resistance and Type 2 diabetes (start about the 3-minute mark into the segment). Based on Jon Reitzes’s attempts to find insulin in Guatemala City (and subsequent research confirming the herbal-medical information he’d come across), I would expect patients there to be more open to using readily-available herbal preparations than pills to control their Type 2 diabetes.
One of the often-quoted reasons behind Manny’s creation of the Spanish-language EsTuDiabetes network is, again, to touch Spanish-speaking people affected by diabetes in the language and cultural idioms that touch them most deeply and make them most likely to act.
The takeaway from this is that both diabetes management, and the way in which it is presented, must be tailored to the individual – taking into account his culture, his language, and his environment – for it to be successful. And that partial success is much better than total failure.
Thank you, Doctor Mateen, for reminding our medical community of this. Thank you, Manny, Chris, Amy, the folk at dLife, and the OC movers and shakers, for providing an environment in which we can all interact and learn according to our personal levels of understanding. And thank you everyone, for being here for everyone else. Between us all, we can make a difference.