Risk reduction campaigns increasing stigma

Following on from a recent blog about Dementia Risk Reduction, I received the comment below, which is being highlighted today, as this is such an important issue. I understand the necessity from a personal and public health strategy perpective for us to engage in risk reduction strategies.

I also understand that we humans don’t always live healthy lives, until something goes wrong with out bodies or minds! Although the evidence is increasing for risk reduction factors for dementia, I wonder are people likely to bother to engage seriously in these strategies anyway, and suspect the majority won’t. That is all part of being human. 

I have seen this blaming happening. when I was diagnosed last year I was cautious who I told. At a combined lunch at church I gingerly introduced the word dementia, and heard a vitriolic criticism of those with dementia strongly implying that they deserved what they got as it is preventable. I lost complete faith in the two main instigators of this conversation. And the upshot of this was even more caution in who I told.

Risk reduction for dementia, or indeed, any other chronic health condition is incredibly important from an economic and human cost perspective, The problem with risk reduciton campaigns around any specific conditions, is they can lead to people beign diagnosed with those conditins being blamed for them.

Diseases such as diabetes have had a lot of campaigns about risk reduction, and governments need them, as they simply canmot afford health care as it is. Many people I know who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes since these very public campaigns, have told me they are often even discrimianted gainst, and the sitgma is hig, and families and friends are less than sympathetic, as they blame them on lifestyle for getting diabetes. I’m sure people who smoke cigarettes, and then get lung cancer are likely experiencing the same lack of sympathy.

I have no answers, but wanted to flag my concerns here, and am hopeful some of you will have ideas for how we can reduce the negative consequences of the risk reduction campaigns for dementia, or any other health condition…

Thank you.

11 thoughts on “Risk reduction campaigns increasing stigma

  1. Thank you so much for raising this! This ‘risk reduction’ dialogue is pernicious. This focus on blaming individuals is not just in this space – it is everywhere and we need to resist it. My husband had NONE of these risk factors! But he still developed Alzheimer’s. My heart goes out to the person you quote Kate – that is an awful experience. A lot of people make a lot of money out of these negative messages – they are designed to make us all feel inadequate and make us better consumers.
    What we need is to resist is this idea that there is such a thing as a ‘normal’ person – and everyone who doesn’t ‘conform’ is a deficit, a drag on society. This is NOT what humans are! I think you mentioned, Kate, that you would rather be welcome in ANY cafe not just in a DF cafe. I couldn’t agree more.
    We should find ways to ensure that people stop medicalising behaviours that seem ‘different’. Why should we have to use the excuse, ‘Oh, he/she/I has dementia – that’s why they seem odd to you’. Why can’t those others be challenged to be more tolerant of the range of behaviours that human beings engage in. Lots of us are ‘odd’, with or without dementia. Let’s celebrate being quirky.
    Love your blogs Kate – keep thinking outside the square! Gaynor


  2. Sometimes the refuge of self is needed to gather inner resources together. To mitigate change we must remain sure of self. This mantra helps: I am the Robyn of the present. I forgive the past that helped to shape me. I embrace the Past. I forgive Robyn for choices she may have made in the past. I embrace Robyn.I forgive those who sit in Judgement against me. I embrace the Judge because I understand the need to deflect their guilt upon me. I respectfully refuse to carry to carry their guilt or their judgement – some people have Gods to do that for them. I do not.
    I am Robyn. I simply am one with now. I do not have time for the past. The future is beyond my grasp. Let us all acknowledge the seperate ways and celebrate our differences.


  3. You display good balance here Kate. Yes, we need risk reduction for ourselves and from the public health perspective.
    But there is always an element of luck, good or bad, involved. Life is long and full of complexities and pressures. Compassion and understanding are the appropriate response. Thank you for highlighting this.


  4. Always a difficult situation. We all intend to live more healthily than we do (everyone makes…and breaks…New Year resolutions), but often only make change after we become sick. We also know that a healthy life may help to ward off different conditions (dementia, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and so the list goes on), but it doesn’t come with a guarantee; with many people who, in spite of “doing the right thing”, developing diseases. Blaming other people for ill-health is unkind and pointless. The best thing we can all do, is ignore what people say, and do what is right for us. As my mother used to say, “Your turn will come!!!!”


  5. Pointing the finger at others is a nasty game some people play. Having attitudes as they have, that can bring it’s own risks, in terms of negativity ways, bringing harm to the body …
    If you are not perfect, don’t ctiticise others, that’s how I see it.


  6. Simply being alive brings risks to us, driving the car, crossing the road. What we eat, drink, whether or not we exercise, and si many other things.

    We all are allowed to make decisions for ourselves, and as long as these things are legal, we are allowed to do them.

    Being alive is a risk, but we are all wanting to be alive, we decide our level if risk


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