The number of diabetes patients in Africa is increasing at an alarming rate. Kenya has over 775,000 people living with diabetes but only one in four are diagnosed and this pattern according to experts is because of lack of awareness and access.
The Director of Medical Services Dr. Nicholas Muraguri recently urged Kenyans to go for regular screening of diabetes saying it can be managed if detected early through healthy lifestyles and proper living environment
He acknowledged that diabetes remains a big challenge to Kenyans to date due to low levels of screening across the country and lack of access to quality healthcare.
Muraguri who was speaking during the launch of diabetes awareness campaign that will be running throughout the year prior to the celebration of World Diabetes Day in November, said that the government is working with various partners to enhance diabetes awareness in order to increase the number of patients even at Faith Based Facilities and County Referral Hospitals.
“The myths and misconceptions that diabetes is a disease of the rich are further barriers in dealing with it hence Kenyans should have their sugar levels tested as early as possible,” he added.
Muraguri said that majority of Kenyans are also not insured hence unable to access quality health services on diseases such as diabetes urging them to insure themselves with the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) which caters for most of the diseases.
“People who are covered by NHIF access better care than those covered by other health insurance firms because they refuse to cover patients with diabetes, cancer or other chronic diseases,” he added.
Muraguri said the campaign will run for the next six months in selected counties, namely Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Nairobi in Langata Sub-County to ensure increased awareness and early diagnosis.
Base of Pyramid (BoP) Project Manager at Novo Nordisk Health care Company, Abigail Chakava said that as the leaders of this campaign, the BOP project is set to ensure that insulin is readily available to patients.
“Insulin is available in pharmacies across the country at cheaper prices so the patients should know that being diagnosed with the disease is not the end,” said Chakava.
She added that the project will help increase self-management through self-education, support groups and access to quality care to those suffering from diabetes.
The theme for the campaign is ‘ it takes only 5 seconds to know your blood sugar” and is geared towards more people with diabetes living better lives free from diabetes related complication.
Meanwhile two months ago, Merck Company launched a joint campaign with pharmacists and external diabetes management partners for the early detection of diabetes, where people can take part in an online test – using either their Smartphone or computer – and find out in a few clicks whether they are at risk for diabetes.
Having answered the short questionnaire, those who show a tendency to possibly develop diabetes are given many useful tips and the opportunity to have a free blood test in one of the 50 pharmacies that have been equipped with new blood glucose meters, provided by Merck.
The diabetes test program is already running and the response has been huge with Bloggers and doctors actively involved in the long term, as are patient organizations, employers and occupational associations.
“We are continuing to work on raising diabetes awareness among the general public, improving treatment options and illustrating ways to prevent the disease,” said Alexander Hoffmann, the coordinator of the campaign in Kenya.
According to Hoffmann, they want to make people aware of the dangers of diabetes, while at the same time improving medical training offers. Ultimately, it’s about supporting patients in recognizing the symptoms of diabetes at an early stage and in the case of diagnosed disease getting proper and professional treatment.
Last weekend on the 4th of July, Kenyans turned out in large numbers to support the campaign through a diabetes walk at the Carnivore grounds.