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Diabetes Awareness

International President Sten Akestam’s letter to Ann Landers raised awareness of the risk factors of diabetes as well as highlighted Lions’ efforts to combat the disease.

International President Sten Akestam’s letter to Ann Landers raised awareness of the risk factors of diabetes as well as highlighted Lions’ efforts to combat the disease.

Diabetes Awareness

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Touchstone Story #72

When International President Sten Akestam wanted to help raise awareness about diabetes, he turned to one of the most influential women in the world for help: Eppie Lederer, better known as advice columnist Ann Landers.

For decades, her syndicated column, “Ask Ann Landers,” helped readers tackle every human problem imaginable. Millions flipped through their newspapers each morning to read Landers’ thoughts on parent-child relationships, disputes with neighbors, moral quandaries, health problems and the feelings of the lovelorn. If Lions could get a letter about diabetes printed in Landers’ column, they could quickly reach a wide audience with important information.

Akestam, who served as international president from 1986 to 1987, wrote to Landers, explaining the risk factors, warning signs and consequences of diabetes—one of the leading causes of vision loss in adults in industrialized counties. “Please print this letter,” he wrote. “Millions of people need to see it, and if it runs in your column, they will.”

Akestam explained that Lions worldwide were involved with diabetes screening. Readers who wanted additional information about the disease or screenings could call their local Lions club or Lions Clubs International headquarters.

In January 1987, Akestam’s wish was granted. His letter and Landers’ response appeared in the more than 1,100 newspapers carrying her column. “I’m delighted to print it,” Landers wrote. “It will save lives. I hope you have a good number of trunks on that phone and many volunteers who are willing to answer it.”

Her advice to Akestam was spot-on. Lions headquarters received more than 1,000 phone calls asking for more information. Public interest was so high that headquarters printed thousands of brochures on diabetes and made them available to clubs.

Lions’ efforts to help control and treat diabetes and related complications, such as sight loss, have never ceased. Clubs host diabetes screenings in their communities, participate in annual events for diabetes awareness and raise funds for research and treatment. And with the number of people living with the disease estimated to grow to 592 million by 2035, the work of Lions will continue to be a vital part of preventing and treating diabetes.

Ann Landers

Ann Landers

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