‘Diabeetus’ isn’t a real thing. Diabetes is.
As it turns out, diabetes affects a lot more than just one’s health. A healthy diet and exercise can prevent certain types of diabetes, but contrary to popular belief, type 1 is simply inherited and cannot be prevented. An unbalanced diet and unhealthy lifestyle causes type 2 diabetes and theoretically can be cured, but Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that inhibits an individual’s ability to regulate their insulin. Currently, there is no available cure for Type 1 diabetes.
Each year at the end of February, Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund sponsors an event at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This event (named One Walk) gives people the chance to walk and raise awareness for both diabetes types in people of all ages. Thousands attend the event each year and gives everyone a chance to learn more about the disease.
Different booths are set up around the mall for walkers to stop at. Some advocate for awareness or medical reforms, while others are advertising for new and better ways to help those affected by diabetes.
One of the companies present at this year’s walk was ExpressionMed. The company makes medical adhesives for insulin pumps and Dexcoms (a brand of equipment designed for people with diabetes). Entrepreneur Meghan Sharkus started the company her Junior year of high school and has worked towards helping people with diabetes feel more comfortable with the medical equipment that they need. Diabetes affects just under 30 million people in the United States alone. Over 1 million of those affected are under 18. This means that a lot of kids not only have to deal with the disease but also with the stereotypes associated with it.
Kids with diabetes are often shy or self-conscious about the equipment they need to make it through the day. Kids without the disease may ask about their devices and, kids being kids, sometimes make the kids feel embarrassed about a disease that they can’t help having. Along with the devices, large generic patches are currently the only adhesives made to keep the insulin pump (or a similar device) on the individual. That’s what sparked Meghan’s idea: innovating a new adhesive that encouraged self-expression would help fight the diabetic stigma. She could even find a better tape to make the sticky patches last longer.
For the past two years, Sharkus has grown her business and has changed the adhesive game: using a high-tack biocompatible tape, she has worked with a well-known adhesives company to build a cloth-based adhesive cut in several different designs. The cloth adhesive keeps the covered area breathable and formed to the skin without itching or scratching. The patches are cut into designs such as hearts, soccer balls, and even owls, out-styling the normal plastic or paper adhesives that were previously the only ones on the market. These adhesives have also been proven to stay almost on twice as long as other adhesives, staying on for 7 to 10 days. These aren’t just for kids either, everyone is welcome to try this new product. ExpressionMed is releasing a Kickstarter this Monday (expressionmed.com).
Meghan Sharkus is still working on new designs and is continuing to make ExpressionMed successful in destigmatizing diabetes. So far, she’s doing one heck of a job.