Remembering Dr. Banting on World Diabetes Day

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Today is World Diabetes Day, created to stand out as a beacon calling attention to diabetes across the globe.

There is quite a bit happening this year for World Diabetes Day Nov. 14, topped by:

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Of course, all of it comes on the day marking the birthday of insulin co- discoverer Dr. Frederick Banting, who would be 126 years old if here were still alive today. World Diabetes Day has been around since 1991, thanks to the International Diabetes Federation, but this World Diabetes Day 2017 happens to be particularly noteworthy, as it also marks the 10-year anniversary since the United Nations recognized it with an official resolution — helping to raise the public profile on this awareness day.

Here are some Banting-specific items we are aware of for this WDD 2017. If you know of anything not mentioned, please let us know in the comments below!

Banting House Historic Site

Remember hearing of the Banting House in London, Ontario, where Dr. Banting once lived, and actually conceived the idea of insulin on that fateful Halloween night in 1920? I had the pleasure of visiting that historic site earlier this year, and was fascinated by all the collectables and tributes, inside and out.

Now for World Diabetes Day, there are special activities on tap.

  • reading of a special letter from the Secretary General of the United Nations
  • lighting of Sir Frederick’s Statue as part of the global Blue Monument Challenge
  • reading of international “Dear Dr. Banting” letters that have been left at the museum by various visitors over the years
  • unveiling of the newly installed commemorative bricks in the Global Garden
  • announcement of the Diabetes Canada national donor recognition program
  • opening of our newest exhibit “Canadian to the Core: Banting’s Canada” in the Frances Ruth Lawson gallery
  • a Banting House collection of gently-used clothing for its clothesline program, which supports the nonprofit org Diabetes Canada
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Sounds pretty cool!

Oh, Canada…

It’s worth mentioning that Canada has sealed the importance of insulin discovery on its 100 dollar note, first unveiled in 2011. This bill is made of plastic rather than paper, which is the way Canada’s now rolling on some of its currency choices. Along with a vial of old-school 20s insulin, the currency note also shows a woman looking into a microscope — symbolic of Canada’s overall contributions in medical research and innovations over time.

And notably last year for the first time ever on Nov. 14, our D-Community’s years of advocacy finally paid off when Google created a specific Doodle for World Diabetes Day — paying tribute to Dr. Banting and the discovery of insulin.

We haven’t seen one announced yet for WDD 2017, but hey… fingers crossed!

Banting’s Ghost Project
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No.111 - Purge Impurities

Several months ago, we wrote about a new photo documentary project called Banting’s Ghost. It’s the brainchild of Stephen Richert, a fellow type 1 who has a passion for photo-journalism as well as adventures such as rock climbing. This East Coast D-peep is married with a young child and has recently gone back to school for Nursing, but that hasn’t stopped him from setting out on an advocacy project focused on insulin affordability and access.

Using the name of Banting with the thought that the insulin discovery researcher would “be turning over in his grave” at how unaffordable and out of reach his medication has become, Richert is chronicling those in our D-Community who are facing that dire situation.

Banting’s Ghost actually launched Nov. 1, and throughout the month Richert’s been updating some of the photo stories he’s working on. Specifically for Nov. 14, Richert has been preparing to release his first video episode and he expects that either on WDD or shortly after. To date, he’s filmed two segments chronicling PWDs’ experiences and has a third lined up. Right now, the challenges of fundraising and finding new story subjects have been the toughest part.

“Even close friends who I’ve known for a while are a little reticent about talking about the issue of insulin access publicly because it’s something they don’t like to be identified with,” Richert says. “I’m not entirely sure why — maybe because there’s a ‘social justice warrior’ stigma surrounding the issue or something.”

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Still, he says his work continues and at some point he might delve more into the issue of glucose supplies and test strip affordability, which is also a big issue for the D-Community. “It’s been like pulling a thread on a sweater — the more you pull, the more it unravels.”

Banting Birthday Party by Beyond Type 1

This powerhouse California non-profit has launched what it calls “Banting’s Birthday,” a site inviting people to celebrate the Nov. 14 birthday in a number of different ways. You can:

  • Sign a digital birthday card to Dr. Banting
  • Read stories about Dr. Banting, who died in 1941 and is most well-known for his insulin discovery work that led to a 1923 Nobel Prize, but also did military service during World War 1 and military research
  • Make a $1 gift to Beyond Type 1, a salute to the actual sales price of the original insulin patented in the 20s based on Banting’s belief that insulin belonged to the world and shouldn’t be used to line corporate pockets
  • Receive free “party favors” from sponsors that include Dexcom, Genteel, KNOW Foods, Myabetic, and SportsTagID

BT1 is also hosting a private showing in Los Angeles of its Bike Beyond documentary, recapping the bike adventure across America that took place earlier this summer.

What Would Banting Say (#insulin4all)?
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The ‘Mine was among the first to spread word about the newly-created #insulin4all advocacy call when it was first born on World Diabetes Day 2014 (see our coverage here). And in the three years since, the UK-based T1International group has done some incredible work raising public awareness on the issue of insulin access and affordability worldwide – especially here in the USA over the past year.

That #insulin4all rallying cry continues for WDD 2017 along with a specific crowdfunding campaign.

Still, the group’s founder Elizabeth Rowley – an American-born type 1 who lives in the UK – says the D-Community needs to maintain a level of perspective when it comes to World Diabetes Day.

“For me, the oft-used statement that ‘Thanks to Banting and Best, diabetes is no longer a death sentence’ is very upsetting,” she says. “In parts of the world this is the case, but not at all globally. It shows a lack of thought or compassion for our brothers and sisters with diabetes around the world. Or maybe it’s just a lack of understanding or a failure to believe that so many thousands (maybe millions) die because they can’t afford or access their insulin or other basic diabetes treatments.”

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She adds: “Hopefully our little corner of advocacy, and the work that we do as a charity, can continue to address that point on WDD and beyond.”

Indeed, Liz. We very much agree. And as many have observed over the years, if Dr. Banting were alive today, he’d be outraged at how expensive and out of reach insulin has become for so many across the world — and how even here in the US, systematic failings have created a public health crisis on insulin access.

Here’s to raising the bar on public awareness, and doing what we can as a collective community and as individual advocates to move the needle on change.

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a leading consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community that joined ishonest Media in 2015. The Diabetes Mine team is made up of informed patient advocates who are also trained journalists. We focus on providing content that informs and inspires people affected by diabetes.

Read more on: diabetesmine

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