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Diabetes UK

By David Mendosa

Last Update: November 1, 2000

When the British Diabetic Association changed its name to Diabetes UK earlier this year, it was a great opportunity for the association to launch its new Web site. But the name change to Diabetes UK is only the first of three planned phases.

…a matter of political correctness

The second phase, which is already underway, is developing the content of the site, says Jacqueline Galyer, Diabetes UK's Internet manager. Phase 3 of the site's development, she says, will be developing interactive functions, including e-commerce support, forums, and chats with experts. Developing those functions will take the next 18 months.

When I called Jacqueline in London a few days ago, I asked her why the association changed its name. She offered two reasons—to bring their image up to date and because around a dozen organizations shared the same BDA acronym when it was called the British Diabetic Association, including the British Dental Association and the British Deaf Association.

Here in the United States the American Diabetes Association has a similar problem with the acronym shared with the American Dietetic Association and many other organizations and companies. As far as I know that doesn't mean, however, that there are parallel plans to change our name to Diabetes US. Yet it does have a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

It seems to me, however, that there was a third reason to change the British Diabetic Association's name that doesn't apply here. You might call this a matter of political correctness.

Many of us say that we don't want to be labeled as diabetics, which some people might have thought that the organization's previous name did. The thinking is that we may well be people who have a disease called diabetes, but to call us diabetics is to reduce us to something less than the whole of our being. The American Diabetes Association avoids this label, both in its name and in writing about people with diabetes.

Whether the diabetic label is a concern in the UK or not, Jacqueline didn't say. She did say that the organization has about 150 full-time employees and almost 200,000 members, most of whom have diabetes. About 1.4 million people know that they have diabetes in the country—which is officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, consisting of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The association estimates that another million people in the UK don't know they have diabetes, because they haven't been diagnosed yet.

Already one-third of the UK's population has Internet access, Jacqueline says. Currently the site is getting from 800 to 900 visitors per day, she says. Most of these are from the UK, but they come from all over the world.

The parts of the site that most people visit are the areas called What is Diabetes? and Managing Your Diabetes. "At the same time we are getting an increasing number of healthcare professionals accessing our information for them," Jacqueline says.

The part of the site that I like best is the section on Diabetes Myths. While several Web sites around the world have a page like this, Diabetes UK's is the best and most authoritative of any that I've seen.

In general, however, Jacqueline thinks that the best thing about the site is their news. "We can respond almost instantly to stories about diabetes," she says. "We have found that more people visit the site when the press has a story related to diabetes."

The most gratifying aspect of the Diabetes UK site must be the feedback that they get from people who have just been diagnosed with diabetes and their friends and relatives. "We give them more information than what they have been told," Jacqueline says. "That enables them to ask the right questions later on." 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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