Doing my bit for Science

Having diabetes stinks. No really, it does. It’s not the dread Death Sentence some media outlets like to make it out to be but it definitely does stink.

(Did you know that insulin can make you gain weight? Insulin which most Type 2 diabetics will end up needing at some point in their lives? Basically, you need to lose weight to help control your blood sugar but the drug that you need to help you manage your blood sugar will make it tougher to lose weight. Just one of the special little gifts that come with your diabetes diagnosis – yay!)

Then you’ve got the stigma attached to being a person with Type 2 diabetes. Because one of the risk factors for Type 2 is being overweight, there’s a perception that we “deserve” this disease because we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t fat. Seriously, I’ve had people tell me that to my face. Whether that’s true or not, no one deserves diabetes and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Three times yearly visits to the endocrinologist (diabetes doctor). Keeping track of what you eat versus your pre- and post-meal blood sugar readings so that you can try to figure out which foods don’t send your body into orbit with extra sugar. Finding it harder to lose weight even as your doctor tells you that you “really ought to” focus on losing some weight. Is it any wonder that so many diabetics also battle depression? And of course, depression can make getting out of bed a huge accomplishment, much less exercising and planning nutritious, low calorie meals. It’s all much easier with support from friends and family but the depression and shame can make it tough to reach out.

Enter Ginger.io, a company dedicated to using big data to help make new discoveries for treating chronic diseases like diabetes. I recently signed up for a pilot they are running to gather passive data about activity levels among Type 2 diabetics that can be used for several purposes.

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In essence, each of the participants downloads an application to their smart phone and then just goes about their daily business. Every day I receive a one-question survey about my mood the day prior, and once weekly I answer a survey about how I’m doing with my diabetes tasks and another about how my quality of life has been for the past week. Simple Simon. The application then tracks how active I’ve been – not with steps or calories burned or anything like that, but how many miles I’ve traveled, text messages I’ve sent, and phone calls I’ve made. Right now the application just gives me interesting tidbits about how my activity this week compares to what I did last week or today’s travels versus yesterday’s, but the plan is that in the future, if I specify people in my support circle, the application will track how I’m doing and alert those that I specify when my activity drops and my survey results show I’m not doing well.

Imagine that: I’m dealing with depression and struggling with my diabetes, and then TCB will just know as if by magic that I need help. Wow.

In addition to the selfish part of this exercise, the application is also gathering important behavioral information about a group of folks with Type II diabetes that can then be used to help create new methods for treating diabetes and those suffering from the disease.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Type II diabetes and this program sounds like something you’d like to hear more about, click here to find out more or to sign up for the on-going pilot today.

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