The demonisation of sugar: Thai authorities dramatise the risks

thai-diabetes-picA series of shocking images by the Thai anti-diabetes campaigners has provoked a strong reaction, and that was precisely their goal: to turn people away from sweets. The attention grabbing campaign sends an aggressive but clear message – if you eat too many sweets, you get diabetes.

Thailand’s population has long been struggling with diabetes and in an attempt to combat the disease, the country’s Diabetes Association launched a shocking campaign billed “Sweet Kills” that shows the consequences of excessive sugar consumption.

Designer Nattakong Jaengsem, commissioned by the Diabetes Association of Thailand to produce the campaign, created a visually striking series of posters showing limbs with gaping wounds much like those caused by gangrene – only the wounds, when you look closely, are running with confectionery.

The in-your-face marketing move is no accident. Diabetes is a big public health problem in Thailand with 9.6% of the population affected by the disease, according to the most recent World Health Organisation report.

The Thai government has taken several steps to address the issue, starting with the introduction of a universal health care programme to ease the impact of diabetes in 2002. However, many Thais, mainly those living in rural areas, failed to reap the benefits of the new programme, having never been diagnosed. So in 2009 the Government launched a diabetes and hypertension screening campaign for people aged 35 and older, and within the next two years more than 90% of these people were tested.

However, the recent campaign by the Diabetes Association is exceptional because it establishes a direct link between sugar intake and gangrene, one of the most horrific consequences of diabetes. Over time, diabetes causes cardiovascular damage and diminishes blood circulation, and as a result, wounds may take longer to heal, and gangrene can result.

Jaengsem created a compact and compelling visual formula showing the cause and effect of diabetes – one that is sure to make people think twice before they pick up another piece of candy.

Posted in Editorial, Mainsite

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