Charles Mattocks is a celebrity chef, worldwide diabetes advocate, and he also has type 2 diabetes. He has appeared on multiple talk shows and news programs to discuss his involvement with diabetes advocacy around the world and in the health industry.
On my travels around the world from India to the Caribbean, one thing is clear: diabetes is not only crippling people but also costing millions of dollars. Many of those who have the hardest time dealing with diabetes—and I have seen it firsthand—are ones with low income, little understanding of the condition, and little resources to deal with diabetes. Strips and meters are a secondary thought when food is the priority for the family!
As we know, persons from lower socioeconomic status are more likely to have poor health than others in the society. Additionally, they are less likely to have adequate access to care or to receive high-quality clinical and preventive care services. I have met people who don't know the most basic things about their diabetes: they don't know what an A1c test is; they don't understand that diabetes can cause serious complications to their organs and their bodies.
The lack of education in these challenged areas does not allow these people to understand how diet can affect the management of their disease. They may be asked to change their diets but are given no blueprint to do so. They often will walk out of the doctor’s office with a prescription they can’t afford, no meter to check their blood sugars, and no goal of how to maintain their health. When issues and complications arise, even the smallest ones, they may be overlooked because the patient lacks the means to afford the most basic care.
I can recall a young man who had some issues with his feet in Jamaica. He did some work for me for several weeks while I was on the island. I had no idea he was having very bad issues with his feet from diabetes. When I finally heard what was happening, I suggested and then took him and paid for his treatment at the podiatrist. I asked the young man why he didn't take care of this. I mentioned that this could have gotten very bad and led to amputation. He explained that he simply had to make a choice: because he didn't have any extra money, his only choice was to choose what was keeping him going at that moment. Buying food so that he had the energy to work and paying for bus fare so he could get to his job were all he could afford.
We also understand that if those with a challenging socioeconomic status don’t receive proper care, they will most likely develop serious complications including cardiovascular disease and hypertension—which can bring additional financial hardship.
I recall meeting another lady in India who was a high-ranking official and did very well for herself. She lost her job due to diabetes complications, including a major stroke. I went to visit her home and realized that both she and her home were shells of their former selves. She had to sell most of her furniture, and the bank was ready to repossess her home. This would have left her with nowhere to live, as she had no other options. Not only were her complications a major factor, but also diabetes had left her without a home and no work to be found. Because she was the breadwinner for her household, the hardships she and her family faced were truly tragic.
I have seen countless examples of how diabetes cripples both the person and their families at times. It’s also a major burden on governments as they try to treat this condition, spending billions of dollars. The greatest tragedy are the lives of those devastated by this disease who could be helped by the most basic of care.
I may not be the most educated man in all of these areas, but I know what I have seen, and I know why I fight each day for diabetes. Some may not like the way I kick up the dust; I don't like the in-fighting among some of the foot soldiers in diabetes. But I reach the people, not just in my part of the world but in other parts of the world as well. I bring gifts, initiate change, and help people get tested. My vision and hope—and what I’m working for every day—is that we can truly work together one day for the millions around the world who are impacted by diabetes.