Public health educators in California are using poetry to engage young people about diabetes.
Dr. Dean Schillinger, a professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, started the partnership between UCSF and Youth Speaks as a way to spark conversations about the disease.
The partnership, called The Bigger Picture, holds workshops to educate teens and young adults about diabetes. After the workshops, the teens take the information and express their reactions through poetry.
Schillinger told NPR Type 2 diabetes needs to be talked about as a social disease, rather than focusing on people’s personal decisions.
Type 2 diabetes is worse in poor, urban neighborhoods and communities of color. NPR reports that half of African-American youths and a third of Latino youths born in 2000 are expected to develop Type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives.
Here is an excerpt of a poem written by 22-year-old Erica Sheppard McMath, followed by its full video rendition. In the poem, she expresses trying to stay healthy while watching her family struggle with obesity and disease:
It’s like knowing most of your family has diabetes
but your still smacking on sour patches
as you’re walking your aunt to her dialysis appointment
It’s like Auntie Marlow being blind at 32
It’s like Grandma Susie dying from a heart attack at 51
It’s like cousin Kieara shooting insulin in her nine year old arm