We chat to Buyelwa Majikela-Dlangamandla, a diabetes educator who trains local healthcare workers in a programme called Agents for Change, about diabetes in the workplace.
Can you tell us about Agents for Change?
Agents for Change is a diabetes training outreach programme, supported by the World Diabetes Foundation, that aims to improve diabetes care in rural and semi-urban areas of South Africa. The goal is to empower healthcare providers and people living with diabetes to manage their diabetes to prevent diabetes-related complications.
The first part is two days of intensive and interactive training that provides participants with a sound knowledge of diabetes. Practical skills in preventing and managing lifestyle conditions are demonstrated, like how to prepare affordable healthy food. Participants set their own goals of what they wish to change in their lifestyle habits and workplace.
Six months later, the same participants come back for the second phase where they share their experiences, successes and challenges in carrying out their planned changes. We focus on behaviour counselling and the stages of change. People with diabetes are invited and they volunteer to share their real life experiences to be discussed as case studies for learning. Agents for Change has trained more than 1,500 healthcare workers and reached thousands of South Africans since 2008.
How are you involved?
I run the workshops with Noy Pullen, the project manager.
How did you become interested in diabetes?
My father had diabetes and so did all of his siblings, so there’s a family connection. I have also been working as a diabetes educator since 1995 at Groote Schuur Hospital and am currently working as a clinical educator at the University of Cape Town.
What is the most important message you share in your training?
- Choosing a healthy lifestyle can prevent and/or delay the onset of diabetes.
- People living with diabetes can enjoy a healthy, normal life.
- A positive attitude leads to a meaningful life.
What is the most surprising lesson for the participants?
That the effect of physical activity on blood sugar levels is similar to that of blood glucose lowering medicines and insulin.
Once they have finished their training, what happens?
They are encouraged to start support groups and vegetable gardens. Those groups are called “Khula Groups”. They get continued support from the project – reading material and gifts – and they are always linked to the project manager on SMS or email.
How many people has Agents for Change helped?
Agents for Change has trained more than 1,500 healthcare workers and through them reached thousands of South Africans since 2008.
What advice would you offer to people living with diabetes who are struggling?
I can never fully understand how diabetes affects people who live with it, so it wouldn’t be right for me to offer advice. Because diabetes affects people differently, the approach should be personalised. However, I do notice that those who have accepted diabetes as part of their lives and taken charge of their own health find it easier.
What makes your life sweet?
Living in the moment, love and smiles from people around me.