Students and campus organizations collaborated to host activities commemorating World Diabetes Day on West Campus Wednesday night.
The event, coordinated in part by the Duke Partnership for Service and the Duke Global Health Institute, represented Duke’s contribution to a global initiative led by the World Diabetes Foundation and the Global Health Organization to shed light on diabetes and other non-communicable diseases as a growing health issue.
It has been estimated that 347 million people worldwide have diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. The disease particularly affects middle- and low-income countries, where more than 80 percent of deaths from diabetes happen. The need to more effectively diagnose and educate populations about diabetes has been a growing concern, especially in developing nations, said senior Sanjana Marpadga, who coordinated the event.
“It’s an issue of social justice—diabetes doesn’t discriminate,” Marpadga said. “If you talk to anyone, they usually say that they know someone with diabetes. Everyone is connected to the issue in some way, but they don’t know much about the disease itself.”
More than a dozen student and campus groups—including Project HEAL, Unite for Sight and Duke Student Wellness—contributed to World Diabetes Day. Duke’s celebration of the event included interactive activities on the Main West Quadrangle, food tastings, fitness classes and a narrative video documenting the effect diabetes has on students’ daily lives.
Although past years have seen the Duke Chapel lit blue to express support for World Diabetes Day, Wednesday’s activities ended with students, volunteers and community members forming a blue circle—the universal symbol for diabetes—with LED lights for an aerial photo on the Chapel Quad.
Event coordinators also showed a video of several students relating the effects diabetes has had on their college experiences to further raise awareness. One of these students, freshman Nick Camarda, spoke of how his diagnosis with type 1 diabetes in the middle of his senior rowing season changed everything from his diet to his career options.
“[Diabetes] is a new way of life,” Camarda said in the video. “There are days when I’m glad I’m a diabetic and days when I’m indignant and despondent because of the disease’s stranglehold on my life.”
DPS and DGHI sponsored the event to raise awareness about the global risk of diabetes and to highlight the need for accessible care, Marpadga said. Additionally, dPS plans to lead student volunteers in organizing an educational session with Duke Hospital’s Healthy Lifestyle Program and creating a manifesto urging Durham County representatives to more effectively support diabetes care.
Sophomore John Davis, a member of the DGHI student council, said he was excited that DGHI supported raising diabetes awareness on campus.
“Because a typical Duke student may be unfamiliar with the daily struggles that a diabetic may go through, educational activities such as the ones held on Main Quad are important to increase the knowledge of this disease that can affect anyone,” Davis said.
Marpadga said the event succeeded in spreading the word about the global diabetes awareness movement.
“The main goal of this was to have people know that it was World Diabetes Day, even if they couldn’t come out to the Main Quad,” Marpadga said. “If you ask around, people have actually heard about World Diabetes Day [now].”