Published on 22 November 2022

Stepping into the shoes of people with diabetes

People with diabetes don’t get a break from the demands of managing the condition. Every day, a person with diabetes makes upwards of 180 therapy decisions1 – and these decisions don’t wait for a convenient time. Whether it’s a busy day at work, a big night out, or a moment of relaxation, the tasks must be completed. 

At Roche Diabetes Care, we work to ease the burden of the daily therapy routine for people with diabetes. But to do so, we need to truly appreciate what this burden entails. We want to build up more empathy with the obstacles people with diabetes face on a daily basis. By improving our understanding of the experience of living with diabetes, we strive to create better products and services for the people in need. 

That’s why a group of Roche employees have created the Empathy Challenge, an initiative inviting colleagues to step into the shoes of a person living with diabetes for one day. During 24 hours, certain tasks have to be completed to simulate the experience of living with the condition. This can also help those living with diabetes, as people living with type 1 may not be aware of the challenges that people with type 2 are facing. And vice versa.

For instance, our type 2 diabetes challenge involves starting the day by sitting still for 5 minutes before measuring your blood pressure. It might sound easy – but for many of us even carving out time to sit still in a busy morning can be very frustrating! This is followed by measuring your blood pressure, taking your weight, logging the measurements in an app, taking your first pill and injection (substituted by a tic tac), then logging the medication. And that’s all before breakfast! And did we mention that breakfast needs to be sugar free?

Aside from the general disruption of carrying out daily tasks, the challenge also demonstrates the amount of intellectual and emotional labour that people with diabetes need to invest into their care. These factors often go unnoticed, unless you’re in the position yourself. 

Here’s what some of our “Empathy Challenge” participants have said:

"I loved this challenge. I did see videos and did read a lot about how it is living with diabetes, but it does not compare with this challenge. Having to actually walk to the fridge, eat when not hungry, constantly worrying if I did all my tasks etc. made this experience so much more real."

“Overall it was an intensive experience (more than I thought). There's really a lot more to consider, than ‘just measure/inject/eat.’"

While the challenge was launched as part of our activities to mark World Diabetes Day 2022, we hope the impact of the empathy and awareness built through this challenge will continue throughout the year and into the future. After all, diabetes doesn’t take a break.