Awareness + Action = Prevention®
by Andrew P. Mandell MR. DIABETES
Q. WHO IS MR. DIABETES?
A. I'm Andrew P. Mandell, the Executive Director of the Defeat Diabetes Foundation (a nationally registered 501(c) (3) nonprofit charity), a senior citizen, an insulin-dependent diabetic, and the sole walker for The Mr. Diabetes® Wake Up and Walk Tour®.
Q. WHAT IS THE MR. DIABETES® WAKE UP AND WALK TOUR®?
A. It's a 10,000-mile walk of the perimeter of the United States. Every step I take is to raise awareness about diabetes and its preventability. There are 21 million Americans with diabetes and up to half don't know they have the disease. I want to help identify those people and prevent diabetes among the 41 million pre-diabetic Americans.
Q. ARE THERE ANY OTHER MOTIVATING FACTORS?
A. To let folks know that having diabetes is not a death sentence. With 21 million Americans currently diagnosed, I believe, collectively, we could, should, and can powerfully influence legislation and the development of programs to support our needs.
Q. HOW DID THE IDEA FOR THE WALK® COME ABOUT?
A. I felt something dramatic had to be done. Originally, I planned a 200+-mile run across the state of Florida. It was to be one marathon per day (26.2 miles) for eight consecutive days. I was just 50 at the time and had done marathon distances many times. While training, I began losing 2 to 3 pounds per week, never equating the weight loss to diabetes. Then, one day I woke up and couldn't move without excruciating pain. This was the start of a downward spiral that took over two years to control. In bed for those years, I thought often, "If this can happen to me—and I was in good shape, how are others faring?" After recovering, running was not possible because I couldn't feel my feet or legs—I had to learn to walk again. Meanwhile, issues around diabetes were magnifying and information about early identification and prevention just wasn't getting out to the public. So, I decided to literally take it to the streets.
Q. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WALKING?
A. The WALK® has taken place in phases. The Trial Walk started December 1, 2000 from Madeira Beach, FL, to Pensacola, FL, a distance of 450 miles. The next phase took up at the exact location in Pensacola (East Milton) I had stopped, and from there I walked continuously from January 15, 2002 until November 2003, covering 11 states and over 4,000 miles.Winter snows in The Rockies forced a break. I got back on the road in April, 2004 to walk over 2,000 miles through Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, reaching Zion, IL and the 6,100-mile mark in mid-November. Forced to break again due to snow, I resumed in April 2005 to log an additional 900 miles before winter brought me to another halt. Starting again in Seneca Falls, N.Y. on April 16, 2006, I hope to make it to Washington D.C. by the end of October, which should allow me to continue uninterrupted by winter weather until its completion.
Q. HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU MEET AND TALK WITH EACH DAY?
A. I speak with roughly 25–50 people one-on-one and anywhere from 25 to 2,000 at speaking engagements. Cumulative numbers for the tour to date total over 42 million (tallied based on market size).
Q. AS A DIABETIC, WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF MANAGING THE DISEASE?
A. Self management! Studies show that the key to avoiding many of the severe complications is maintaining proper blood glucose levels. In fact, some studies have shown that a decrease of 1% of your A1C level can reduce the likelihood of some complications by as much as 20%. This involves constant monitoring of blood glucose, what you eat, your daily activities, and keeping your A1C level below 7%. (The A1C test measures blood glucose levels over a three-month period. A normal A1C score would be about 5%.)
Q. WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO LEARN FROM THE WALK®?
A. Diabetes is a scourge on this country and our health care system. According to statistics from organizations, such as the CDC, NIH, WHO, and JAMA, diabetes costs this country $135–$150 billion per year; figures based on just half of the estimated 22 million diabetics! It is entirely possible that the high cost of diabetes will completely bankrupt the healthcare system in this country.
With the incidences of diabetes projected to increase to 66 million by 2025, many of the country's 41 million who are currently "pre-diabetic" will develop this disease within 20 years if steps are not taken immediately to prevent it. Type 2 diabetes is 75-80% preventable!