Did you know that if those with type 2 diabetes (or those at risk of developing it) decrease their body weight between 7 and 10 per cent, their chances of developing diabetes or diabetes related complications drops significantly? Did you also know that type 2 diabetes in children is becoming a global health issue with serious implications on the future? (More information is available on the World Diabetes Day website www.worlddiabetesday.org).
Last year, on 14 November, millions of people came together from across the world to unite for a global epidemic that is increasing significantly. World Diabetes Day is marked annually on this day and is an official United Nations Day that is celebrated in 160 countries around the world. It is an international public awareness campaign that was initiated in 1991 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) in response to the alarming rise in diabetes worldwide.
The theme for 2008 was “diabetes in children and adolescents”. The mission is to combat the 5 per cent increase per year of diabetes in children. It is estimated that about 200 children a day develop type 1 diabetes, but this is diagnosed late, usually after the child has developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This is the build up of excess acids in the body as a result of untreated diabetes and can result in coma and death. Children are more sensitive to a lack of insulin than adults and are also more prone to developing DKA. Type 2 Diabetes has also been seen to increase in children in recent years.
“No child should die of diabetes”was one of the campaign slogans used this year and the importance of increasing awareness among parents and caregivers, teachers, healthcare professionals and the public, by making them aware of the telltale symptoms of diabetes, was one of the main goals of the campaign. This global campaign shows the importance of working together to find cures, reduce the increasing rate of diabetes and to make those at risk aware of the implications of developing diabetes.
Aims of the campaign
The aims of the campaign include:
- Promoting a healthy lifestyle
- Preventing the development of type 2 diabetes in children
- Increasing the number of children supported by the IDF’s “Life for a child programme”(www.lifeforachild.org)
- Raising awareness of the warning signs of diabetes
- Encouraging initiatives to reduce DKA and distribute materials to support these initiatives
In addition, a range of activities are organised each year for this event by the global diabetes community. These include sports events, poster and leaflet campaigns, free screening for diabetes and its complications, monument lightings, sponsored walks and runs, and many more.
How I got involved
Founded in 1942, the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association aims to promote the interests and welfare of pharmacy students and is the official student organisation of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.
The International Pharmaceutical Students’Federation was founded in 1949 by eight student associations and today represents 350,000 students in 70 countries. The IPSF is the leading international advocacy for pharmacy students and focuses on public health, pharmacy education and professional development. It has relations with WHO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).
The BPSA is a member association of the IPSF, meaning that all BPSA members are automatically members of the IPSF and can participate in IPSF events and attend IPSF congresses. My role on the BPSA executive, as the student exchange officer, is combined with the role of IPSF contact person (CP). One of my responsibilities as the IPSF CP is to co-ordinate public health campaigns that are supported by the IPSF.
What I did
As future pharmacists, it is our responsibility to ensure that the general public are made aware of pandemics, such as diabetes. We are in an ideal position in the community and are widely trusted and relied on to provide support, help, advice and information where it is required.
Diabetes affects a significant proportion of the population (25 million people worldwide), so it did not seem enough to set up an event in just one city. Therefore, with the help of some enthusiastic BPSA representatives, we decided to take on several.
We managed to set up a total of seven stands successfully across England and Wales: two in London and one each in Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester, Bradford and Cardiff. We agreed that the main goal of this campaign was to raise awareness and we decided that the most effective way to do this would be to place ourselves among the general public and provide them with information. The representatives were provided with information on diabetes, which enables them to speak with confidence about the condition. Money was also collected, which was donated to Diabetes UK.
Students and academics in universities were encouraged to wear blue to show their support of this day and various messages about the events were posted on the Kingston University, BPSA, IPSF and WDD websites. In addition, students were encouraged to take part in a “human blue circle”at Kingston University (see photograph adjacent).
Initially, we found that we were only approached by diabetes sufferers. This was a good opportunity for us to speak to them about how they had been coping with their condition and advise them on how to reduce the risk of developing complications. We received a lot of encouragement and support from them, which was rewarding. As the day wore on, we had more people speaking to us out of interest. Many were shocked to learn the facts and figures and were even more surprised when we told them about the significance of a healthy lifestyle and how easy it is to reduce the chances of developing diabetes.
We met a woman who suffers from type 2 diabetes and, as a result, had lost her sight, developed nephropathy, was unable to walk and had lost co-ordination in her hands due to circulatory problems. She told us that when she was first diagnosed with the condition, she was not provided with any information on the complications and how to prevent them from developing. She commended us for what we were doing and said she hoped that we would be able to reach out to more people and provide them with the information that could change their lives. This was one of the highlights of the day and made standing out in the cold and the wind worthwhile.
With the positive feedback we had received, I am hoping to organise a similar event this year involving more cities. In addition, I am hoping to light up Kingston University in blue to support this event.