The Message Behind Blue

I plan on wearing blue on Fridays in November because it’s Diabetes Awareness Month.

The plan also extends to World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14.

Did so last year, and will continue that practice in 2011 and beyond.

Without a doubt.

Just like so many others in the ever-expanding Diabetes Online Community. As evidenced by this Facebook page and video created by Cherise.

Thanks, Mom! (@jath622)
But I’m not just planning to wrap myself in blue clothing, put blue attire on my dog, and watch for monuments and fellow diabetes advocates to “Go Blue.”

No, the plan is for more than that.

I want people to know WHY we are wearing blue. By people, I don't mean my fellow Knights of The Diabetes Jedi Order. I mean regular folk.

Simply, most people don’t know that someone wearing blue on a particular day, or even on a regular basis for a month, is doing it for any specific reason. They don’t get blue is the color representing diabetes. Heck, even the Diabetes Community itself can’t agree on a universal color (like breast cancer has with pink).

That has been my frustration before. Last year, I wrote a blog about how frustated it made me when the monument in downtown Indianapolis was lit up in blue on the Sunday of World Diabetes Day but how NO ONE grasped it was for diabetes. Rather, everyone thought it was in honor of the Indianapolis Colts who also don the color blue. There was no other signage or designation showing why it was lit up in blue, and so the potential for a great D-Awareness message was essentially lost.

Same thing happened on days when I wore a blue shirt, but managed to walk out the door without my little blue lapel pin. No one assumed I was wearing blue for a reason, and it's not like you're just going to run around town or your office declaring, "I'm wearing blue because November is the month of Diabetes Awareness and this is our color!!!" Most of the time, I remembered to wear my little Blue Circle of Advocacy on my shirt and that sparked some advocacy moments. The blue pin and wrist Act NOW bracelet actually spark questions, and allows for some real life advocacy moments where you can educate people who aren't familiar with this diabetes cause.

So, that's what I am planning again.

I'm hopeful that my local JDRF and ADA chapters will embrace both the blue color use and overall D-Awareness efforts, as well as my D-Camp organization and the local businesses in town such as Eli Lilly and Roche Diagnostics. Coordination is a key, and despite some efforts in the past number of months to make this happen, it's yet to fully come to fruition. Which I'm somewhat bummed about. I'm also not happy that I've been unable to receive any response from the City of Indianapolis to my inquiries about what more can be done to add context to the Blue Lighting of the Soldiers & Sailors Monument. We'll see what happens on these various fronts.

While I love the fact that so many in our community are embracing the color blue, and the message is so vibrantly "Wear Blue!," I do not want the message to get lost because we're preaching to the choir, that we're not simplifying this effort to those in the general non-D-world.

Maybe I live and work in a place where people don't go around asking why you're wearing blue, randomly. It's just not that special of a happening, in my world. So I don't want the message to be lost and will be doing what I can to make sure it's not.

What is that message? According to the IDF:

Love this Blue Circle frame!
"The significance of the blue symbol is overwhelmingly positive. Across cultures, the circle symbolizes life and health. The color blue reflects the sky that unites all nations. The blue circle signifies the unity of the global diabetes community in response to the diabetes pandemic."

As a color, blue also has specific meaning for those of us in the Diabetes Community - back before the home blood meter days when urine testing was the only way to determine where a PWD's BG was at, the color blue suggested normal blood sugar because the urine was free of glucose. This isn't to say anyone actually remember this and used it in the rationale for choosing blue.. but historically, it makes perfect sense for blue to be our color.

So there it is. Blue, it is. I'm ready for that message go global and more mainstream public.


Brenda Bell said…
Besides the overall color confusion, pink is not a color normally encountered in the business world; blue is. (The official WDD shade of blue isn't, and isn't known as such -- it's better known as United Nations blue.)

In addition to the particular shade of blue not being well known (nor, for that matter, the WDD blue ring), blue has had a number of other connotations through time. In the 16th-18th centuries the color blue may have been associated with servants -- in part because the color was inexpensive (though smelly) to produce (dyers were outcast by law because of it), and in part because it was one of the few permanent colors that could be produced before aniline dyes were developed. (Carmine red was another permanent color, but it was very expensive since it came from insect carcasses.)

That said, nobody seems to get the turquoise for ovarian cancer awareness (September), and IIRC, prostate cancer awareness uses a distinct shade of blue as well. Also, while people understand the loop ribbon, the ring is not a logo associated with any sort of support or awareness. (Then again, it took about six or seven years for the red dress for women's heart health to catch on as a public symbol.)

What we need is for the fashion industry, the entertainment industry, and the NIDDK to put together a cohesive campaign highlighting both the blue ring and WDD blue, and inexpensively-available garments in WDD blue, with WDD-ring print designs, consistently over five to seven years, for the idea to catch on.
Unknown said…
This post addressed some of my questions/concerns. I remember wearing blue on previous WDDs, putting up blue lights, etc. and wondering how to get people to ASK why I was doing that. This year, I want to make stickers or pins for my kids that say, "Ask me why I'm wearing Blue on Fridays for my Mommy" or something like that.
Holly said…
Thanks for your history of blue-I had no idea about the :good: sugar color on urine tests! : ) And you are an advocate for all of us and our kids..thank YOU! : )
Judi said…
It never even crossed my mind that using blue came from the old urine tests from when you were blue "negative". Maybe that's because I was rarely blue negative and mostly orange "high". That's really cool that they used that in the though process of picking a color.
shannon said…
yeah, i also hadn't heard that bit about blue meaning you were in range back in the day, very nice bit of synchronicity there. i remember your post about the blue buildings/colts confusion last year. i was in columbus last WDD and was stoked to see the buildings lit in blue, but i did wonder how well publicized the reason was.
Ooo, that pin idea Amy had is a good one. I might have to use that. We have a button maker at work. :D

Also, Mike where did you get that frame? I NEED one. :)
Unknown said…
Love your advocacy, Mike! GO BLUE!

The blue pee color? Had no idea!

Loved this post, my friend. Let's do this.
Redhead Living said…
I just came across your blog...I'm a fellow Hoosier with a 4 year old T1. She loves to wear her Colts jersey for blue Friday, but when she put it on last Friday, I told her that she was also wearing blue for diabetes awareness. She was so excited about it that all day at preschool she told everyone her blue was for diabetes awareness and she briefly forgot about the Colts!

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