Raising the profile of NCDs on World Health Day.

World Health Day this year looks at the growing problem of Diabetes. Around 350 million people worldwide have diabetes and in 2012 diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths. More than 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

With cases of diabetes expected to increase dramatically over the next twenty years, we’re supporting projects in Africa that are training health workers to identify and diagnose diabetes, ensuring that treatment is received before it’s too late.

In Ethiopia our Chronic Non-communicable Disease Programme enables rural people suffering from chronic diseases to receive essential care near to their homes from health workers who are appropriately trained. At Koladiba health centre, many patients come with diabetic complications such as foot ulcers. Nurses are being trained to treat patients and help them protect their feet and not neglect small wounds which can result in severe infection. If neglected, such infections can progress to gangrene and loss of the limb. 

In Zambia, local health professionals are working with UK health workers from Frimley Park Hospital to reduce the incidence of irreversible blindness by increasing the screening and treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

So far 28 health workers have been trained in the capture and reading of retinal images and referrals, as well as in glaucoma screening, and were able to subsequently successfully identify diabetic patients at risk of glaucoma. An ophthalmologist was also trained in treatment such as laser surgery.

 For Colien Kasepa the training improved her knowledge of diabetes and ability to identify and refer patients:

‘I learnt a lot, especially because I am a diabetic myself. I had a screening of my own eyes which was enlightening because I thought it was only glasses that were important, but now I know that we need routine exams of eyes. I will also encourage patients to start having their eyes screened yearly as a way of monitoring changes and progression of any changes.

‘The training was full of knowledge, it was exciting, motivating and encouraging. From the training I learnt more about diabetes and the eye. I was equipped with the necessary knowledge about diabetic Retinopathy, which is a complication of the disease. I am also able to provide patients with information. They understand how they can become blind as a result of diabetes. Therefore, they are now able to control their sugar levels to near normal levels so as to avoid complications such as Neuropathy, Retinopathy and Nephropathy.’