Diabetes Care and Education in Tanzania
Diabetes is no longer a disease of the rich and overconsumed. Every 8 seconds, a person dies due to this disease all over the world and tens of millions live with diabetes yet not knowing it. Shockingly, this disease is on the rise exponentially in Africa.
My recent project is promoting bitter gourd as an antidiabetic food-based approach in India and Tanzania both to improve life quality (and decrease their financial medication burden) of diabetes patients and increase the income of smallholder farmers. Through our baseline survey done in July in our partner hospital in Tanzania, we have found that out 162 diabetes patients interviewed, 122 did not know which type of diabetes they have (type I or II). They are all treated with insulin. This is a major issue as patients do not receive the proper treatment and may continue to suffer.
What we have discovered in our survey is that both education of medical professionals, patients, and the knowledge of appropriate diabetes tests are lacking in the region. Patients also do not have individual blood glucose monitoring. They only measure their blood glucose levels whenever they travel to the hospital. Sometimes there may be one glucose meter per village. Whether this is the story in the rest of Tanzania is not quite sure. This topic needs to be explored. However, I suspect that the situation may be similar. There is a need for better diabetes care and education in Tanzania. My question is: How can we bring this issue to the right people who can bring change to diabetic patients in Tanzania and Sub-Saharan Africa?
As this issue is not directly related to my work, it is a need that I believe should be met. Here are a few of my proposed steps:
1) Research and understand the scope of diabetes care and education situation in Tanzania and other Sub-Saharan African countries. Situations may vary among countries and regions.
2) Connect with African hospitals and medical experts to further discuss the situation and action plan for diabetes education and screening.
3) Link these hospitals with appropriate diabetes resources and organizations such as International Diabetes Federation and American Diabetes Association to provide the needed resources and training for diabetes screening and education.
4) Create or join a network for engaging diabetes issues specifically for Sub-Saharan Africa.
As this is a recent challenge on my mind, the World Pulse community can serve as a place of linkage and expertise to promote this issue to the rest of the world. Through Pulsewire, this issue and the best approach for delivering diabetes care and changing the current situtation can be discussed and brainstormed. Diabetes experts can provide the much needed information for testing diabetes patients and which organizations to link to. Community workers can teach us how to best promote diabetes education in the villages. Fundraisers and grants experts, where do we find funding, donors and sponsors? Anyone who sees this can participate in engaging their local clinics and hospitals in diabetes issues in Africa.
Right now, it is quite a newborn idea, maybe there are people already working on this issue. Maybe there are good linkages and partnerships to be made. If you have any idea how to go about this, please write to me. With our minds and hearts together, I believe we can bring positive change in the lives of diabetes where this disease was never heard of before.