Keeping Diabetes Advocacy Positive in China – by Rui Zhang

Adam is a powerhouse of a diabetes advocate in China and we were lucky to meet him to learn more of his projects as part of the Medtronic Bakken Award earlier this year. Check out his story in English and in Chinese!

Hi, everyone. I am Rui Zhang from Beijing, China. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was nine years old and now it has been 17 years. First of all, I should thank my family and friends. The care and tolerance for me has enabled me to face diabetes with positive and optimistic attitude. For 17 years, I have regarded diabetes as my good friend. I think it can bring me a more self-disciplined lifestyle, help me resist the temptations in the bustling world, and let me have a healthy body and a mature mind.

In China, there are more than 100 million people with diabetes, and nearly 10 million of them have type 1 diabetes. According to incomplete statistics, in recent years, the age of onset of type 1 diabetes has a tendency to become younger and younger. I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 9 years old. So I know that in the stage of growing up from a teenager to a young person, people with diabetes face psychological and physical challenges. Therefore, I am currently working on the medical and social problems faced by adolescents and young people with type 1 diabetes to help them live a happier and healthier life.

My exposure to my diabetes circle started in my sophomore year. Under the guidance of my uncle (a diabetes worker), I was fortunate to join the Beijing Diabetes Prevention Association and met with many outstanding people including Mr. Chen Wei, the director of BDPA, He Daoxin, the secretary general, and Zhang Qi, an excellent leader. Under their recommendation, on the opening ceremony of the 6th United Nations Diabetes Day in Beijing, I delivered a speech about my experiences. Through this event, I was able to enter the circle of patients with type 1 diabetes and met many patients. Through this process, I gradually realized that in our diabetes community, there are many patients with poor blood sugar control or negative mentality. To some extent, this is because Chinese society does not have enough knowledge of the diabetes community.

On the one hand, many people with type 1 diabetes have insufficient awareness of self-management, resulting in unsatisfactory blood sugar control; On the other hand, type 1 diabetes is generally younger in age. During their growing process, they will continue to face social pressures from family, school, work, etc., which would render them form a hidden emotional problem and lead to their loneliness, lack of self-confidence, the idea of escaping from the crowd and so on.

After witnessing many cases of psychological problems caused by their unrecognized social status, I decided to stand up, hoping to increase the society’s awareness of the diabetes community by participating in some public activities and publicity. Despite a lot of pressure, I have never been afraid to tell others that I live with diabetes.

For example, in 2014, I was involved in the filming of a documentary about type 1 diabetes in the CCTV Population section named People Hidden on Isolated Island. This is a nation-wide program, in which I have the courage to tell my story and social problems and psychological pressures faced by this group, so as to appeal to the society for the concern of this special diabetes community. In the same year, I also participated in the “Beijing Marathon Public Welfare Run” jointly organized by the Chinese Medical Association and the Beijing Diabetes Prevention Association. I hoped to show the healthy image of people with diabetes by participating in marathon. Although we only completed the distance of 5km, we successfully demonstrated the positive image of our hard work. At the same time, I also hoped that by sharing the stories of me and excellent friends around me, I could establish a healthy and optimistic image to my diabetes companions and help some patients who are still inferior and autistic to get out of the haze. For example, I submitted my own story to the Chinese diabetes magazine called Friends of Diabetes, and I was honored to be the cover person of that issue; I also cooperated with the business unit of Medtronic China to share those optimistic stories of patients who are optimistic about diabetes to more and more people.

I have established a small-scale public welfare group with a few friends with diabetes, hoping to improve the blood glucose management and mental health through mutual help and mutual encouragement among people with diabetes. We have held a number of exchanges for patients with type 1 diabetes. We invited experts and some diabetics to share some blood glucose control experiences and methods. And we also went to the outdoors for hiking, picnicking, picnics and other activities. For example, in the beautiful autumn in October 2018, we brought some people with diabetes to go for a hike in the suburbs of Beijing, and arranged some education around blood glucose management for them to consider during the hike, so everyone can learn some knowledge as well as exercise. In order to make the activities more educational and helpful, I also strive to improve my knowledge of blood glucose control and diabetes management, and I participated in the 2016 Annual Symposium Diabetes Education and Management of Chinese Diabetes Society organized by the Chinese Medical Association Diabetes Branch. In 2018, I also joined the classes of blood glucose control and management.

Among many activities, what impressed me the most was the “Youth Health Summer Camp” organized by Beijing Children’s Hospital. I participated as a volunteer and communicated with young people with diabetes from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The sweetness, innocence and self-reliance of them deeply touched me. They brought me a lot of happiness, and also inspired me to live a better life. Through this activity, I also met the parents of young people with diabetes. When communicating with them, I knew that they bear a lot of pressure and painstaking in order to let their children grow up without the bother of any worries. From then on, I am determined to help these young people with diabetes and their parents through sharing my experience, to help them grow better and relief those parents’ pressure.

We named our team as “The Smurfs”, because blue symbolizes life and health, and we hope that we can fight against diabetes bravely like the Smurfs fight against Gargamel. I believe that through our joint efforts, we can live happily under the blue sky, just like the Smurfs.





我和几名糖尿病患者朋友成立了一个小规模的糖尿病患者的公益团体,希望能通过患者之间的互相帮助、互相激励,增进彼此的血糖管理和心理健康。我们举办了许多场1型糖尿病患者的交流会。我们会邀请专家、糖友为大家分享一些控糖经验和方法;也会带领糖友们来到户外,进行徒步、郊游、野餐等活动。例如,2018年10月,在美丽的秋天,我们组织糖友来带北京郊区的户外进行徒步活动,并给糖友们布置了一些血糖控制和学习的问题,让大家在徒步活动中思考问题、解决问题。为了能给糖友们带来更有意义的教育和帮助,我也努力提高自己对控制血糖和糖尿病管理的知识。参加了中华医学会糖尿病学分会举办的“2016年教育管理研讨会”(2016 Annual Symposium Diabetes Education and Management of Chinese Diabetes Society),2018年还加入了血糖控制和管理的班等等。


我们给我们的公益团队取名为“蓝精灵”(The Smurfs),这是因为蓝色象征着生命和健康,而我们希望我们能像蓝精灵一样,共同对抗糖尿病这个“格格巫”(Gargamel)。我相信通过我们的共同努力,我们自己能像蓝精灵一样,快乐和幸福的生活在蓝天之下。

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s