SASA partners with the Eastern Cape branch of Diabetes South Africa in a seminar to educate diabetes Support Group Facilitators. 

From left: Wendy Girven, Senior Dietitian at SASA (left) and Priya Seetal, Nutrition Manager at SASA (right) with members of the Eastern Cape branch of DSA.

Close to 4 million South Africans suffer from diabetes and the latest figures show that it is the second leading cause of death in our country. Despite many advances in the medical treatment of diabetes, there are many barriers to managing one’s diabetes. Not only does one need to eat healthy meals and exercise, effective management includes monitoring blood glucose levels, taking medications and using problem-solving skills to manage diabetes-related situations such as high and low blood glucose levels. It is no wonder that having diabetes, doubles the risk of developing depression.

Studies show that diabetes support groups can go a long way toward successfully managing diabetes as they connect those who have diabetes. This helps them stay motivated by offering practical and personal support. Group members learn from the insight and experience of others. This learning can be educational and behavioural as group members learn information about diabetes, therapeutic alternatives, or new coping strategies from each other. According to a study published in the January 2012 issue of Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, people with type 2 diabetes who attend support groups are more successful at maintaining — or even improving — their health.

“Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. 

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, that acts like a key to let glucose from the food we eat pass from the blood stream into the cells in the body to produce energy. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose in the blood. Insulin helps glucose get into the cells. 

Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (known as hyperglycaemia). Over the long-term high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.” 

(International Diabetes Federation)

Diabetes South Africa (DSA) is well aware of this and has long since established support groups for people with diabetes and their families, through their branches. With its head office based in Cape Town, DSA has 7 branches around the country, run primarily by volunteers drawn from the ranks of the membership base with linkages with over 100 smaller local branches and diabetes support groups in South Africa. The groups are run by facilitators who are instrumental in ensuring that support groups meet.

With the help of DSA, SASA realised the importance of educating DSA facilitators so that the support groups they run, are empowered with correct information on the treatment and management of diabetes. To this end, SASA sponsored two DSA seminars for DSA support group facilitators, one in the Western Cape and the other in the Eastern Cape.

SASA dietitian, Wendy Girven, gave an informative yet practical presentation on healthy eating in type 2 diabetes and corrected the myth that diabetes was caused by eating sugar. The group facilitators were also updated on foot care, diabetes and the kidney and the importance of managing stress. Delegates attending the seminars were grateful for SASA’s support and impressed by the sugar industry’s commitment to health promotion. 

Priya Seetal

Priya Seetal is Nutrition Manager at SASA