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Diabetes: Sugar Coated Crisis

Diabetes: Sugar Coated Crisis

December 10, 2008

Review By: Doris J. Dickson

Type 1 Mentor



David Spero, a resident of San Francisco, California, is a registered nurse, health coach, father of two and Multiple Sclerosis patient. He is also a regular contributor to Diabetes Self-Management magazine.
Spero is also an advocate and teaches patient self-care which is what led him to diabetes. He has given talks and led workshops at diabetes clinics, hospitals, and community centers all over the country. He counsels healthcare providers on more effective social ways to help their patients – especially by working with them as equal and empowered partners. He leads wellness groups and support groups and has addressed three of the last four annual meetings of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
"Diabetes: Sugar Coated Crisis” was developed from Spero’s anger about people causing chronic illness (in this case, type 2 diabetes), and with hope and inspiration about new approaches that can prevent and treat it. 
The book begins with a foreword written by Dr. Gabor Mate, a physician in VancouverCanada, an introduction to the book and a Diabetes 101 prologue. Following is Part I, entitled “A Profit Driven Plague.” It describes the social causes of illness; as well as how those social causes make people sick (specifically type 2 diabetes).
Part II is entitled “Health as a Movement.” This section of the book explores what Spero believes to be a “new and better approach” to type 2 diabetes and other chronic illness. He calls it a “social movement approach.”
Spero firmly believes people get sick because their lives are difficult, the environment is unhealthy and people do not have the “power” to respond in an effective manner. He believes the medical system ignores the causes of illness and focuses on genetics, biochemistry and other avenues that lead to drug therapy.
Instead of medicine’s current focus, he believes we can stop the (type 2) diabetes epidemic if we address the powerlessness and environmental toxicities that cause it. He further describes type 2 diabetes as a social disease – society has the disease; individuals get the symptoms and pay the price but the environment is set up to make people sick. He strongly disagrees with those who believe the diagnosis of diabetes lies with mistakes individuals make (in behaviors such as eating habits, lack of exercise, etc.).
In opposition to the primarily medication driven treatments used today, Spero gives examples of social cures that can work but that are not popular among caregivers, pharmaceutical companies or insurance carriers. He recommends we take social approaches that include the following elements: building person power, building social power and changing the environment. He describes it as a public health approach. For examples of the social approaches, he suggests finding regular exercise partners, going to a gym with a built-in support system such as the YMCA, church-based exercise programs, etc. As a further example, Spero suggests setting up community safety walks where residents are not comfortable walking alone (such as the inner city).
From a healthcare provider point of view, Spero suggests employing the power of social support in the form of group appointments, classes led by diabetics, support groups and mentor programs. He refers to them as inspiring programs and discusses how they have successfully worked in the chapters entitled “Strength in Numbers” and “Taking it to the Streets.” He believes that when people come together around health issues, they can heal the unhealthy environment, that one person taking care of him/herself can inspire many more.
The book also contains a how to self-care appendix, as well as a resource list including books, periodicals, websites, and community and healthcare providers. Finally, Spero believes type 2 diabetes can be a “wake-up call, moving people toward a healthier, happier, more meaningful way of life. He writes, “if they accept the challenge, find the support they need and take more control of their lives, those with chronic illness can become a source of strength, inspiration and support for a family or a community.”

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