Diabetes advertising can save the NHS

You’ve all read that the NHS is in crisis, it is costing us more and more. Advertising to increase public awareness of diabetes could save the NHS billions.

We have notably increased mortality but not addressed morbidity, so we have an exponential rise in the number of sick Brits. Gone are the days when morbidity was rooted in viruses, bacteria or environment conditions. Today most sickness is self-inflicted through lifestyle choices – obesity, smoking, diabetes, heart disease and many forms of cancer.

Most of these diseases come from our choices; our choices about food, about exercise, smoking and drinking. These are emotional choices, often made with the heart overruling the head, desire being a greater force than wisdom.


The single biggest and fastest growing costs to the NHS is diabetes. The NHS spends in excess of £10bn per year on diabetes and diabetics occupy one in six hospital beds.

Diabetes UK claim that there are 3.5m known diabetics, another 1m that are yet to be diagnosed and a staggering 11.9m people at risk given their weight, age and ethnicity. That’s 16.4m people.

We have to stop that 11.9m becoming diabetic and we need to stop that 4.5m from degrading into the many nasty complexities of diabetes that ruin lives and cost the NHS a fortune.

We need to get the message out there to the 66% of UK adults that are overweight that diabetes is a real and truly nasty threat to their lives. Cautionary advertising is effective, it worked for well for smoking, HIV and heroin . We need to deliver a cold hard and brutal reality check to those 11.9m.

For the diabetics fear of gruesome complexities has a part to play, but they also need messages of hope. Diabetes is a long hard gruelling disease, and without hope, inspiration and strength diabetics fail. Currently about 60% of diabetics fail to meet the NICE targets for blood glucose, fats and pressure, they are on a bad course.

The government's 2016-17 marketing communications plan looks to spend around £300m on marketing and advertising for the public good. It’s a 40 page document, the number one priority, not surprisingly, is to remind us how great our economy is doing. Guess how many times diabetes in mentioned in this document? You guessed it, it’s zero.

It’s hard to argue against the simple economics. If we spend £10m-20m a year on drumming home these messages is will pay huge dividends in pressure and cost to the NHS in the year ahead, oh, and save lives.

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