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Language Matters

South Africa is joining the global #LanguageMatters movement, calling for “a new language for diabetes”.

Diabetes Australia, the International Diabetes Federation, and diabetes organisations in the US, UK, Italy, France, India, Costa Rica and Canada have published similar statements. You can see them all on Language Matters Diabetes.

#LanguageMatters Diabetes South Africa

Let’s change the conversation about diabetes in South Africa

Our language matters. The words we choose, and the way we use them, influence, persuade and affect how people view the world. Words do more than reflect reality: they create reality.

Words are powerful. They can create a culture in which people feel valued, understood, and supported – or one in which people feel misunderstood, undermined, stigmatised, and excluded. 

Words can express conscious or unconscious bias. The words used to talk about diabetes affect the physical and emotional health of people living with diabetes. They also affect how people in society view people living with diabetes, or those at risk of developing diabetes. 

People with diabetes, their families, and people at risk of diabetes need and deserve clear and accurate communication that is respectful, and inclusive – and free from judgement and bias.

#LanguageMatters Diabetes photo shoot

Language Matters position statement

Download the South African #LanguageMatters Diabetes position statement here. It outlines why our language matters, how to choose your words, and how to be inclusive.

Please share this position statement with friends, family, schools, workplaces, your doctor and any other healthcare providers.

#LanguageMatters Diabetes South African photo shoot

South African images of people with diabetes

Alongside the words we use being more conscious and empowering, it’s essential to consider the images we use when talking about diabetes. This applies to healthcare settings, the media, social media and general use.

We need to use imagery that is accurate, representative and empowering. If Type 2 diabetes is always referenced alongside images of fast food, it leads to judgement and stigma; and if Type 1 diabetes is only referenced alongside images of needles, it does the same. People with diabetes can live full and healthy lives – and our imagery should represent that.

To make it as easy as possible to use empowering imagery, we have uploaded 150+ positive images of people with diabetes taking medication, checking blood glucose, cooking and eating healthy food, working, chatting with friends and exercising.

You can download any of these images to use for free – anywhere! – at our
Unsplash library.

#LanguageMatters Diabetes South African imagery

#LanguageMatters is a collaboration

These South African diabetes organisations endorse this campaign wholeheartedly:

Organisations supporting #LanguageMatters Diabetes South Africa

All logos are provided to support the #LanguageMatters position statement and cannot be used for any other purposes whatsoever.

And with the support of:

Silver Sponsors

Bronze Sponsors




Eli Lilly

Pick n Pay

What to read next?

Why does the language of diabetes matter? We asked Renza Scibilia, one of the original authors of the #LanguageMatters position statement that started the movement. Here’s what she said.

Let’s talk about diabetes stigma: We asked our South Africans with Diabetes community to share if they felt there was diabetes stigma in SA. They had a lot to say.

What are Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes? Finally! An easy explanation for this question that so many people ask us.

Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.