By Naadiya Adams [Twitter: @Miss_Naadiya]
November 14th marks World Diabetes Day, the theme in 2020 is The Nurse and Diabetes. The campaign aims to raise awareness around the crucial role that nurses play in supporting people living with diabetes.
Nurses currently account for over half of the global health workforce. They do outstanding work to support people living with a wide range of health concerns.
According to Charlotte Medshece, a dietician and diabetes educator, in 2019 12.7% of South Africans suffered from diabetes, a 137% increase in cases from 2017. Currently in South Africa, at least 4.5 million people are diabetic and 19 million people on the African continent have been diagnosed with the disease.
As the number of people with diabetes continues to rise across the world, the role of nurses and other health professional support staff becomes increasingly important in managing the impact of the condition.
Medshece has been in practice for 40 years, she spoke to Radio Islam about the disease and the awareness campaign.
The campaign began in 1991 through an initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation who dedicated a day to raising awareness around the severeness of diabetes. According to Medshece the 14th November was dubbed World Diabetes Day as it was also William Banting’s birthday, one of the founders of insulin in 1922.
Under this year’s theme, The Nurse and Diabetes, Medshece highlights the role nurses play in both caring and educating diabetic patients, “Your nurses are often at the forefront of treating your diabetic patients, they the ones who help with education, the diet, the management. They teach their patients how to manage their glucose levels and test it on a daily basis. Honestly, there’s a shortage of diabetic educators in the world, particularly in developing countries. Doctors and physicians don’t have the time to educate their patients.”
Chronic illnesses tend to come with a certain amount of stigma attached, but Medshece believes it differs from community to community, and depends on how the diagnosed person views themselves. Denial and shame, feelings that feed this stigma in diabetes, need to be quickly dissipated in order to realise that it is a manageable disease that does not need to be stigmatized.
Medshece says genetics do play a role in diabetes, and the fact that some ethnic groups are more susceptible to it than others is undeniable, however she emphasises that the lifestyle environment of the individual promotes the expression of the disease and genes only play a small part.
The dietician errs on the side of caution when patients say they have managed to reverse their diabetic condition. She admits that while the disease is highly manageable through diet and exercise to a point where medication is not necessary, it is not exactly irreversible. Patients who revert to bad eating habits will experience more severe symptoms.
Studies show that 1 in 3 South Africans a pre-diabetic – their glucose levels are higher than normal- and without action, Medshece believes they will undoubtedly become diabetic.