A study by researchers at Makerere University has indicated that the burden of diabetes is worsening every day.
This, they said is due to little knowledge about the social and cultural norms influencing type two diabetes risky behaviors, especially in rural areas of the country.
In their submission, Dr. Juliet Kiguli, Dr. Roy Mayega, and Bob Ramadhan Kirunda the principal leads noted that this is because most of the research around type two diabetes in Uganda and Africa has been largely academic and hasn’t been translated into action at a comparable pace of disease incidence and prevalence.
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.
With support from the government and Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MAK-RIF), these researchers further conducted this study in the high-incidence districts of Busia and Bugiri in western Uganda and designed an evidence-based innovation that is socially constructed to address diabetes with prevention in mind.
In collaboration with Fidelitus Scientific Execution Facility, the team conducted a Cross-cultural learning workshop in Busia from 13th-15th July with the objective of conducting cross-cultural learning and adaptation conversations around the risk factors and social-gender norms around type two diabetes.
Addressing participants, Dr. Gerald Mutungi the commissioner Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) lifestyle department in the Ministry of Health warned that type two diabetes is on the rise among the Ugandan population thus a need for such solutions.
“Diabetes has serious complications that are difficult to manage, it is a serious problem that we must collectively address” Mutungi highlighted.
Dr. Mutungi further highlighted that information from local communities and cultural leaders about diabetes 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.” He asserted.
In his submission, 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 and hence healthy communities.
“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
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.
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 against 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.
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