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New Recommendations on Language for Diabetes Care and Education

Oct 17, 2017

Diabetes is a complex disease that requires continuous daily care and relies on effective communication between care providers, educators and people with diabetes to achieve the best health outcomes. The language that healthcare professionals and others involved in diabetes treatment use to discuss the disease may impact both self-perception and treatment outcomes for people living with diabetes. A panel of experts from the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) and the American Diabetes Association (Association) have published guidance to help guide the language used by healthcare providers to be positive, respectful, inclusive, person-centered and strengths-based, acknowledging the paradigm shift in diabetes care toward a collaborative approach that includes people with diabetes as the primary member of their care team. The recommendations reflect the opinions of the expert panel.  

The panel’s recommendations, included in the article “The Use of Language in Diabetes Care and Education,” represent the work of the expert task force, which executed an exhaustive review of literature regarding the impacts of language used specifically in diabetes care and in health care generally. The task force made five key recommendations for discussing diabetes: 

1. Use language that is neutral, nonjudgmental, and based on facts, actions, or physiology/biology;
2. Use language that is free from stigma;
3. Use language that is strengths-based, respectful, inclusive and imparts hope;
4. Use language that fosters collaboration between patients and providers; and
5. Use language that is person-centered.

The panel’s recommendations also include a detailed table of commonly used language with potentially negative connotations and suggested replacement language. The panel’s full recommendations will be published in the December 2017 issues of Diabetes Care and The Diabetes Educator. The complete article is available online in Diabetes Care at and The Diabetes Educator at Additional guidance and tools are available at  

“As healthcare professionals, researchers, journalists and organizations that serve people with diabetes, it is imperative that we listen to those affected by the disease, understand the challenges they face and support a positive, inclusive environment“ said AADE President Nancy D’Hondt, RPh, CDE, FAADE. “Modifying how we talk about diabetes is a relatively easy change that can have a profound impact on self-management and outcomes. In this language movement, we hope to steer the conversation around diabetes to something that is both motivating and free of blame.“ 

“People with diabetes face both the challenges of managing their diabetes and the added challenge of unfair stigma and judgement from others in society. The language used to describe people with diabetes, to describe management and treatment options and even to discuss how to reduce risk or delay the onset of diabetes can impact how individuals perceive themselves — possibly extending to health outcomes,” said the Association’s Chief Scientific, Medical and Mission Officer William T. Cefalu. “Just as we’ve shifted diabetes treatment to acknowledge the critical role of the person with diabetes in their daily care and advocacy, we must adjust the way we talk about diabetes to empower and reduce the negative stereotypes and judgement about diabetes.” 

About The Diabetes Educator 

The Diabetes Educator is a peer-reviewed bi-monthly journal that serves as a reference source for the science and art of diabetes management. The Diabetes Educator publishes original articles on patient care and education, clinical practice and/or research, and the multidisciplinary profession of diabetes education as represented by nurses, dietitians, physicians, pharmacists, mental health professionals, podiatrists, and exercise physiologists. 

About Diabetes Care® 

Diabetes Care is a monthly journal of the American Diabetes Association dedicated to increasing knowledge, stimulating research, and promoting better health care for people with diabetes. To achieve these goals, the journal publishes original articles on human studies in the following categories: clinical care, education and nutrition; epidemiology, health services; and psychosocial research; emerging treatments and technologies; and pathophysiology and complications. The journal also publishes the Association’s recommendations and statements, clinically relevant review articles, editorials and commentaries. Topics covered are of interest to clinically oriented physicians, researchers, epidemiologists, psychologists, diabetes educators and other health professionals. Diabetes Care is the highest-ranked, peer-reviewed journal in the field of diabetes treatment and prevention. 

About the American Association of Diabetes Educators  

AADE is a multi-disciplinary professional membership organization dedicated to improving diabetes care through innovative education, management and support.  With more than 14,000 professional members including nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, exercise specialists, and others, AADE has a vast network of practitioners working with people who have, are affected by or are at risk for diabetes. Learn more at, or visit us on Facebook (American Association of Diabetes Educators), Twitter (@AADEdiabetes) and Instagram (@AADEdiabetes). 

About the American Diabetes Association 

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, and every 21 seconds another person is diagnosed with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (Association) is the global authority on diabetes and since 1940 has been committed to its mission to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. To tackle this global public health crisis, the Association drives discovery in research to treat, manage and prevent all types of diabetes, as well as to search for cures; raises voice to the urgency of the diabetes epidemic; and provides support and advocacy for people living with diabetes, those at risk of developing diabetes and the health care professionals who serve them. For more information, please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit Information from both of these sources is available in English and Spanish. Find us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn). 


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