Interview: Diabetes in Ghana

Interview: Diabetes in Ghana

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I recently connected with an organization in Ghana called Diabetes Youth Care (DYC), led by the wonderful Nana Ama Barnes. The mission of DYC is to support young people living with diabetes in Ghana and their families. DYC focuses on providing education and medical support to encourage personal growth, knowledge acquisition and independence.

Diabetes Youth Care was started because Nana Ama Barnes saw a gap in the resources for supporting young people with diabetes in Ghana. I’m so impressed by how far the organization has come in such a short amount of time and DYC is continuing to grow. They even hope to put on a camp for young people with diabetes next year and to expand across the whole of Ghana. I connected with Nana and her team to chat with the young people and so that she could tell me more about DYC and its background. 

Can you tell me a bit about Diabetes Youth Care and as how it was founded?

It was during my residency training in internal medicine 4 years ago when I met my first young person living with Diabetes. He was then 13 years old and looked so scared and helpless with his dad. I had to admit him to our ward which was an adult ward. He had lost so much weight and had missed so many days of school. My Consultant asked me to take over his management, ensuring that he did not miss any more days of school. I researched and realized that there were no clinics in the country dedicated to managing adolescents living with diabetes. So I thought of the idea of creating a clinic for them, and also a support group dedicated to teaching the young ones living with diabetes how to live a healthy life to reach ones full potential in spite of diabetes. Diabetes Youth Care was founded 2 years later.

Why do you think it is important that your organization exists?

One sentence haunts me and answers the question….Gifty is 30 years old and has been living with diabetes for 16 years. She said to me “I wish I had met DYC when I was younger, it would have saved me a lot of hardship growing up. However I am happy joining it now; I have learnt a lot to share with my peers”.

It’s wonderful that there is now a place for young Ghanaians with diabetes to come to for support. Part of your aim is to raise awareness and advocate for youth living with diabetes, what would you say are some of the biggest obstacles for people with type 1 diabetes in Ghana?

Cultural beliefs are what affects most management and care and knowledge about diabetes. That is why education and awareness are so important.

Some people believe diabetes is caused by a curse and would listen to non-health personnel about how to manage diabetes.

-Nana Ama

On that note, what do you think are some of the greatest needs of young people with diabetes in Ghana in terms of education?

Support for them in terms of management of diabetes, getting glucometers and strips for monitoring, and knowledge about management of emergencies at home to prevent them from losing school days.

What kind of progress do you hope to see in the future, and through the foundation, for people with type 1 diabetes around the world who do not have access to insulin, supplies, or education?

For DYC we are hoping to be a network nationwide (Ghana) by the end of the year. We also hope to network with all health professionals who are interested in the care of young ones with diabetes so that wherever someone is, there is support.

In Ghana we have the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which provides some insulin, so we try and make sure that every young person living with diabetes is registered with the scheme. Insulin is not always available under the insurance scheme, so we solicit for funds to supplement and provide insulin.

In what ways do you think we can get the global community as a whole to be aware and involved in supporting people living with diabetes in places like Ghana and elsewhere?

I think showing the world that diabetes is not a barrier to living one’s life to the fullest is one way to do this. If we show the world the activities of young ones with diabetes on social media platforms it will go a long way to educating the global community. In Ghana, sharing information via platforms like religious places go a long way in educating the general public about diabetes.

What is the best way for people to help or get involved in Diabetes Youth Care and make a difference to its cause?

Fortunately, there are so many ways. One can volunteer time and any other resources. We have young ones who have lost time in school so, locally, one can volunteer to give extra classes or to help out at the monthly meetings. Anyone can share the information seen on the social media network to spread the word. 

Thank you so much for sharing about DYC and for connecting with T1International! You can follow Diabetes Youth Care on Facebook here.

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Ghana World Diabetes Day Camp

Ghana World Diabetes Day Camp

It was a very wonderful and emotional moment as we listened to the stories and life experiences that were shared. The experiences shared had a common theme about them. All those who shared their experiences stated the challenge of access to insulin and diabetes supplies. Read more