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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.

Thank you!!


BlueSky's picture

Thank You Jen!

You are right Jen, it's strangely common to hear someone say they are diabetic. And you hear from time to time they are very sick and back in the hospital. Thank you for bringing this critical issue forward.

Well written. And I must say it's awesome to see that a sister in Taiwan is thinking of us here in Sub-Saharan Africa!

With regard for you,


jluoh's picture

Asante sana dada

Thank you for the comment! =) I'm always so glad to hear from my Congolese sister. Diabetes is a new area that I am getting into due to the bitter gourd project ( and I didn't realize how fast people in Africa are becoming diabetic. A lot has to do with changing diets and lifestyle.

When I heard our Tanzanian doctor speak, he said that when he was studying medicine in Europe, people told him that diabetes and obesity is a disease only for rich countries. That was the mentality at the time. And I'm shocked to find out how little is being done in Tanzania for diabetes while Western countries are already really advanced in this area. It's just a matter of sharing that knowledge and expertise. We can help each other.

Myrthe's picture

I learned a lot from your

I learned a lot from your post, Jen. I had no idea diabetes was so much on the rise in Africa. A few years ago, I briefly worked with a doctor in a small town in Armenia on a health related project. One part of the project was supplying all diabetes patients in the town with glucose meters, because there was a severe shortage of those in that town. Because they didn't have glucose meters at home, patients would have to go to the local clinic to measure their glucose levels ( if they went there at all). This created additional work for the clinic that could easily be avoided. By providing patients with glucose meters, not only were patients better and more regularly able to track their glucose levels, but the workload of the clinics' staff was also lessened.

jluoh's picture

Good information!

Thank you Myrthe. I am very interested in what you did in Armenia. It is encouraging to know how supplying glucose meters can help diabetes patients so much in their overall life quality. Would you know where were the glucose meters from and how they were attained?

Myrthe's picture

Jen, I worked with a small

Jen, I worked with a small Dutch NGO at the time and the glucose meters were donated to the NGO by the Dutch office of a large pharmaceutical company.

jluoh's picture

Hi Myrthe, sorry for the late

Hi Myrthe, sorry for the late reply. I will look into glucose meters and see whether pharmaceutical companies would be willing to donate... starting with our partner hospital in Tanzania. Glucose meters are so important for diabetes to keep a healthy life. Thank you so much for your input. It has been very helpful for me, who is just getting into this topic.


Myrthe's picture

Your welcome! I don't know

Your welcome! I don't know all that much about diabetes either, but I'm happy that I gave you some ideas. Good luck! Let me know if you got any results. I'm interested to hear how things will work out.

Adepeju's picture

Thank you so much for this

Thank you so much for this article Jluoh. I found it educative. I also admire your work and solutions proposed to your challenges. Fact is most people dont know a lot about diebetes. Information is key. I commend your innovation and courage.

jluoh's picture

Thank you Adepeju! Well, most

Thank you Adepeju! Well, most diabetes cases in the world are Type II Diabetes Mellitues (90-95%), however there are still millions who live with diabetes without ever knowing it. Mass screening for diabetes is very important.

Yes, information is definitely the key, that's why there's World Pulse for us to share with each other, so we can go out to share with others. Thank you again!

lolatsai's picture


Hi J,

I love how you have specific and precise solution ideas. Awesome!


Love & blessings,

jluoh's picture

Thank you Lola for the

Thank you Lola for the encouraging words! I'm inspired by what you are doing to empower girls for change! =) I shared your video on Girl Brides on my facebook. Thank you!

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