Kleinfeld categorizes preventable diabetes-related obesity in children as an “extension of [diabetes] to the young where health care professionals feel society and public policy have most glaringly failed. Diabetes, they say, should never have gotten there” (8).
One reason for the spread of 100% preventable illness like diabetes and diarrheal disease is social apathy amongst the world’s privileged who believe they are immune to the diseases and disparities of the poor. Judith Hall writes that people tend to see themselves as individuals foremost, and as members of a connected population only secondarily. According to Hall, this sociopathic apathy perpetuates misconceptions about health—particularly by providing a rationalization for the preventable suffering of the disconnected ‘other’:
Our modern world tends to emphasize the individual person. We are less inclined to think of ourselves as part of a species, as part of evolution. We rarely reflect on transgenerational effects, in other words that many biologic mechanisms are adaptations for survival of the species rather than survival of individual persons (Hall, 234)
Breaking away from this social disconnect is non-profit founder Shawn Seipler. In 2008, the well-to-do business executive founded a organization called Clean the World, which recycles millions of bars of complementary soap from hotels to the developing world. So far, Seipler’s organization has distributed nearly 10 million bars to nearly 50 nations worldwide. Seipler claims that he “… stumbled on research saying millions of children could be saved each year across the globe if only they used soap and water to wash their hands. In particular, one study found that the top two killers of children younger than 5 — acute respiratory illness and diarrheal disease — could be cut by 60 percent if kids had regular access to soap” (Santich). Imagine the lives that could be saved if everyone in the west harbored Seipler’s same values of connectedness and social responsibility.
Similar to the life years lost because of endemic diarrheal disease in the developing world, diabetes is rapidly the west’s 21st century plague of the ages: “Here, then, was the price of diabetes, not just the dollars and cents but the high cost in quality of life” (Kleinfeld, 2). Maybe it will take a terrifying health crisis like diabetes in the developed world to finally do away with “first world” and “third world,” and create one world.