The continuous eating of processed foods which in turn becomes active in the body is among the causes of the worsening cases of obesity, the government has said.
Dr Gerald Mutungi the commissioner in charge of the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) lifestyle department at the Ministry of Health warns that type two diabetes is on the rise among the Ugandan population thus a need for urgent solutions.
“Diabetes has serious complications that are difficult to manage, it is a serious problem that we must collectively address,” he said.
Dr. Mutungi made these remarks while addressing participants of the Cross-cultural Event that was organized by Fidelitas Scientific Execution Facility in Busia on Thursday this week.
This facilitation was aimed at conducting cross-cultural learning and adaptation conservations around the risk factors and social-gender norms around type two diabetes.
With support from the Uganda government, Makerere University researchers in 2021 carried out a study to understand the patterns of social cultural norms in the districts of Busia and Bugiri in Eastern Uganda. It’s upon this background that they co-designed a contextual strategy to ensure behavioral change to limit type two diabetes amongst the rural population.
John Odolon the Chief Executive Officer of Fidelitas noted that because social norms are rooted in cultural systems, they realized that if they engage with cultural systems they can easily change the negative social norms attributed to type two diabetes hence a healthy community.
Fidelitas Scientific Execution Facility patterned with Makerere University on this research with an aim of understanding how people believe and behave towards diabetes and also to evade community-based innovations to address it.
“We hope to take this forward, these learnings will be shared with other regions and soon we will also scale up these findings to more people than those involved now” Odolon highlighted.
Ochole Andrew the Deputy Prime Minister of the Iteso cultural union who also attended this workshop promised to work with the institution to sensitize the Iteso community on the dangers of diabetes and to use his position in spearheading the fight of this silent killer.
“I believe this is a milestone in the right direction towards helping our people because the focus has always been on diseases that threaten community yet NCDs are also harmful” Andrew articulated.
Bob Ramadhan Kirunda a technical advisor on social norms and a co-Principal Investigator of this project noted that their idea lately is to scale this innovation and implement it in several regions of the country for maximum impact and once the cross-cultural learning is done it will be implemented.
Ramadhan also emphasized the importance of designing local solutions for local communities where they are fully participatory.
“Many development programs intended to change the community normally have a mentality of doing for the people but the significance of this project is that it’s a community co-designed intervention, when we leave them with the knowledge and tools on how to transform they will get themselves out of the problem” he added.
The recent social norm studies by Dr. Juliet Kiguli and Dr. Roy Mayega in Eastern Uganda indicated that the main behavioral factors influencing type two diabetes were consuming processed and added sugar products, consuming high-cholesterol fatty foods, excessive alcoholism, smoking, and psychosocial stress.
According to these researchers, this analysis shows that dietary factors are the greatest contributors to type two diabetes in those regions.
Everine Nampeewo a health worker from Bugiri district thanked the organizers and noted that this program has helped them in taking care of diabetes patients and also to find out the norms and habits that increase this burden in the community.
“We are going to teach women how to prepare healthy food that is good for their families because once we change the way we prepare food it will also help us prevent type two diabetes” she highlighted.
She later called upon Fidelitas to implement this program in different regions as this will help to bring down the number of diabetic patients countrywide.
Globally the proportion of undiagnosed diabetes is high, standing at 46.5% with the biggest burden being in low-income countries in Africa.
The World Health Organization defines diabetes as a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.
Dr. Mutungi also noted that information from local communities and cultural leaders will help them as the Ministry to program what best works for the population instead of referring to studies from elsewhere in the world.
“We do support this study, and as the Ministry of Health we are ready to listen to local stakeholders’ views on what causes diabetes in their communities, their culturally acceptable interventions, and how best we could address them.”