Finland Lifts T1 Military Ban

Numerous countries enact protective measures against employment discrimination for individuals with diabetes. However, within specific professions, notably military roles, nations maintain comprehensive bans on service for such individuals.

This policy arises from concerns surrounding operational readiness, physical fitness, and the challenges related to insulin management during training, critical operations, and wartime scenarios, considering factors like meal timings and insulin availability. However, such blanket bans can be counterproductive, pushing people to not reveal their condition due to fear of discrimination or losing their job, and thus putting themselves and others in danger.

Advancements in treatment and technology for diabetes management have prompted some countries to reconsider their policies, transitioning towards a more individualised approach to acceptance and deployment within the military. With Finland having the highest incidence rate of type 1 diabetes globally, and a 0.9% prevalence in the overall population, the country is now actively working to overturn its blanket ban, following its NATO membership.

Juha Viertola, Executive Director of the Finnish Diabetes Association, has highlighted the discrimination faced by individuals with diabetes who aspire to participate in military service, especially considering every adult male has to complete a compulsory military service requirement in Finland.  A government representative emphasised the importance of ensuring the safety of service while allowing people with diabetes to engage in military service and reservist training.

This is an important step forward in creating a less discriminatory, more inclusive environment for people with diabetes, enabled by access to treatment and technology.

In the United States and the United Kingdom, there have been some instances when soldiers with type 1 diabetes, were provided a waiver of the limiting medical fitness standards, on proof of operational readiness and physical fitness.

Advocacy Action: Placing blanket bans on employment can lead to employees not revealing their condition for fear of losing their job, thus putting themselves and others in danger. It can be a better approach to allow employment with certain physical fitness standards. Are some professions out of bounds for people with diabetes in your country? Raise the issue with your elected representative and ask them to re-consider the discriminatory policies that restrict employment options for people with diabetes.