By Duncun Motanya
In 2017, an estimated 8.8 percent of the adult population worldwide had diabetes. In Kenya about 2 million Kenyans have been diagnosed with diabetes with many others undiagnosed or in the pre-diabetic stage. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the Kenya which is the 3rd leading cause of death, complications such as renal failure, blindness, and lower limb amputation, coronary heart disease and stroke.
Although there has not been a systematic assessment of the literature on diabetes costs in Africa there is an increasing recognition that diabetes imposes large economic costs on households, societies and nations. The increased prevalence and premature mortality due to diabetes has imposed a huge financial costs to households, governments & private sector whist placing immense pressure on the already overstretched healthcare systems in Kenya.
In 2013, when my dad passed on from Diabetes related complications it dawned on me I did not know much about Diabetes. The guilt and thought of imagining if my knowledge on diabetes was in-depth I could have supported my dad manage his condition better inspired me to go on a self-taught Journey about diabetes and teach other Kenyans. I have made remarkable strides as self-funded one man diabetes advocate and five years down the line there has been good progress.
See my Diabetes Awareness Projects:
How do we win this war?
Winning the war against diabetes must start on creating the AWARENESS about Diabetes with an aim of inspiring behavioral change among Kenyans to adopt healthy lifestyles which will inadvertently see them prevent Type two diabetes from creeping into their lives. The Four top risk Factors for Type two diabetes are sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, Obesity and Family history of the condition. The people who should lead in creating the awareness are our religious leaders, Politicians, Corporate CEOs, Celebrities, sportsmen and our immediate family members. Across the world people in the above category have not shied away from speaking boldly about the condition and some have put it various legislative measures to ensure diabetics are fairly compensated, remunerated and have access to affordable medical attention. (Read Theresa May, Larry King, Tom Hanks, Mike Huchabee, Anwar Sadat and many more others) This however is not the same in Kenya.
A few days ago Kenyans received sad news of the demise of UoN literature Scholar; Chris Wanjala who died from diabetes related complications, Bishop Cornelius Kipng’eno Arap Korir of Eldoret too passed on from diabetes complications. Ahmed Darwesh former KTN Anchor too passed on from diabetes related complications. The day we will stop demonizing diabetes, start to speak about it openly and create awareness is the day we will start winning the war about the condition. Diabetes is not a death sentence and for that reason encouraging open talk and programs to drive awareness will greatly help in the war against the condition. Lack of awareness and education about diabetes has forced* many healthcare practitioners dive in straight for a pharmacological intervention for newly diagnosed diabetics instead of measures like lifestyle change because many Kenyans who are diabetic are too ashamed and fear being labelled by their peers as sick* simply because they have changed or adopted the diet and general lifestyle change as recommended for first-line action in treatment. They would rather take tablets in private than face the stigma of being known to be diabetic. This has to change.
At workplaces we have many Kenyans who are diabetic but are too afraid to let their colleagues know about the condition because also the lack of knowledge from them would create awkward moments, wrong perceptions and judgement and for this reason they keep quiet. We have seen workplace accidents which should have been avoided if there was no stigma against diabetes and people were free to speak about it.
Let’s end the stigma and start having Conversations about Diabetes.
People with diabetes aren’t sick; don’t assume diabetes limits them. Sure, they have to do a lot to manage the condition, but people they have excelled in professional sports, extreme athletics, and the arts and in regular day to day jobs. Diabetes is no one’s choice. No one with any type of diabetes deserves it or wants it. Yes, people with type 2 diabetes may be able to control their condition with diet and exercise, but if it were just that easy, everyone would be a size two. There are genetic and environmental factors contributing to diabetes in ways we don’t yet understand. Stop the blame and shame!!
Silas Gisiora Nyanchwani can you write about Diabetes this month? What’s the closest you have come to Diabetes?
Diabetes Awareness Coach