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Tackling the diabetes epidemic

Overturning misconceptions about diabetes and highlighting its impact in developing countries

The World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) tasked Biosector 2 (B2) with overturning misconceptions about diabetes and highlighting its impact in developing countries, especially in South-East Asia. The goal was to convince media – particularly those influencing funding globally and in South-East Asia of the need to address the diabetes epidemic. This was a major challenge because decades of focus on communicable diseases have implied that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes pose little threat. B2's activities included multi-faceted media events: field visits to WDF-funded projects at clinics and schools in rural India, interviews with doctors, patients and school children, and debates with key stakeholders from the global diabetes arena at the main Diabetes Summit.

• Develop a multi-faceted, global campaign involving all media types to raise awareness of diabetes in SE Asia and secure funding and commitment for prevention and care from local Asian governments and global funding bodies
• Create an empowering, yet empathetic campaign, to help communities understand the importance of prevention and diagnosis and to communicate how local projects make treatment more accessible
• Showcase how the WDF works with a variety of partners at a country level, to ensure long-term and sustainable projects
• Engage influential individuals in the diabetes community as spokespeople to assist penetration of the campaign at the grassroots level and ensure ongoing support.


A doctor speaking to a patient at a WDF-funded rural diabetes clinic

A doctor speaks to a patient at a WDF-funded rural diabetes clinic


Coordination of a media event comprising a series of visits to WDF-funded projects in India, including opportunities for interviews with doctors, patients, members of the local community, global leaders and activists in the diabetes arena.

• Spokespeople were identified to present at the summit, including the Managing Director of the IDF, local project partners and members of the IDF and the WHO to provide insights into community projects successfully conducted by the WDF and partners
• Key media messages and supporting media materials were produced to highlight prevalence, socio-economic burden and need for prevention and action
• Ongoing coordination of media to facilitate interviews and ensure they had appropriate visuals and materials to run the story.

B2 demonstrated the ability to deliver a successful campaign in the face of challenging external obstacles:
• Terrorist attacks in Mumbai and flooding in Chennai heavily featured in both local and global media at the time of the summit and led to difficulties for journalist travel
• Securing journalist attendance during the impending financial crisis in late 2008 which affected media's willingness to travel to India for an extended period.

B2 held an innovative event for media attendees, enabling them to visit a variety of WDF funded projects across India, interview project partners and local communities as well as key stakeholders at the main SE Asia Diabetes Summit.

An impressive media attendance was secured from across SE Asia to reach remote audiences, as well as top-tier national and international outlets such as The Times and BBC to reach a broad range of stakeholders. This led to numerous media stories that raised awareness of the need to tackle diabetes and the call for involvement and action by policymakers and funding donors.

Media results:
• Attendance by 33 journalists (versus an anticipated 15) from: SE Asia (27), Europe (5) and the US (1)
• 88 broadcast, print and online items generated, encompassing SE Asian and international outlets; reaching >25.5 million people, reinforcing key messages and keeping diabetes front-of-mind
• Message pick up: diabetes epidemic in SE Asia, the burden placed on rural and urban communities and the economy; the need for immediate action and preventative care.

The campaign successfully met the following objectives:
• Developed a multi-faceted global campaign to leverage the SE Asia Diabetes Summit
• Incorporated the media in the network of influencers to stimulate the agenda on diabetes prevention and support the project work being implemented globally by the WDF
• Showcased the successes of local community projects to encourage additional partnership projects between the WDF and SE Asian governments
• Contributed to driving allocation of future funding from international NGOs towards NCDs
• Encouraged media support for the 'Chennai Call to Action', which was unanimously endorsed by all participants at the SE Asia Diabetes Summit.

Many journalists spoke out about wishing to initiate projects in their local communities.  One of the local project partners, Dr Murugesan, commented: "It was very gratifying that many media participants approached me after my presentation for help and support with capacity building in India and elsewhere."


Case study details

Client: World Diabetes Foundation (WDF)
Agency: Biosector 2 (B2)
Campaign: Diabetes in the Developing World: South East (SE) Asia Diabetes Summit
Timescale: June 2008 to December 2008

22nd October 2009


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