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Diabetes education research: August 2020

Sweet Life’s big focus for 2020 is diabetes education research, in alignment with the Diabetes Alliance. As South Africa’s diabetes community, we offer an online space to share information and advice about living well with diabetes, both here on the website and on Diabetic South Africans. But we also want to help bring this education offline, into people’s lives. Each month, we’ll be sharing the research we’ve done into diabetes education in public clinics, in the hopes that it helps someone else looking for answers to diabetic questions! This is the August report. If you want to read the other months, scroll to the bottom of the page.

August focus:

The focus this month was on moving DiabetesConnect (the diabetes app project) forward with the National Dept of Health, and printing and distributing the Diabetes Food Guide booklet.

DiabetesConnect update:

When we followed up with Itumeleng Setlhare from NDoH, he said that it would be difficult for NDoH to move forward on the DiabetesConnect proposal without having a funding proposal in place. The Diabetes Alliance task team then met with to discuss options. The DiabetesConnect project can be divided into the first phase (pilot phase / proof of concept) which will take 15 months and will result in a working model; and the ongoing costs to keep the project running. 

It was decided that the Diabetes Alliance would put together a formal request for contribution from its members to cover the first phase. This would be sent out with the detailed proposal and budget from Praekelt. We asked that a point be added into the proposal that the NDoH cover the cost of the help desk operator’s salary from the start (even during the pilot phase). We also asked for ongoing running costs to be included, so that the NDoH has advance warning of how much DiabetesConnect would cost them to maintain.

The Diabetes Alliance request was sent out to all members of the Diabetes Alliance this week. It combines a formal request for contribution with the detailed proposal and budget from We made sure to send it to all members, even those who are non-profit organisations, to ensure transparency.

We have asked for feedback by Friday 30th October 2020, so that we know if it will be possible to move forward with the project. If we are not able to fund the full R3.77 million required, we have asked Praekelt if it would be possible to adjust the proposal so that we can do a portion of the suggested project.

Diabetes Food Guide booklet:

The Diabetes Food Guide, a collaboration with Pick n Pay and supported by Sanofi, has been sent to print. The idea with this booklet is to provide very simple, easy to understand advice on which food to choose and in what portion, for better blood glucose control. 

We have printed 15,000 copies and offered them to members of the Diabetes Alliance for distribution. We are using this first print run as a trial to see if the guide achieves its goal of helping people with diabetes understand portion control and healthy food choices. Copies of the Diabetes Food Guide are being sent to the Western Cape DoH (WOW team), the University of the Free State (Dr Marianne Reid), the GREAT team at the University of Stellenbosch, Diabetes SA and Youth With Diabetes, with the remainder to be distributed in smaller amounts by Sweet Life.

There are two ways to offer feedback:

1. Send a series of simple questions on WhatsApp to the people who are getting the guide.

2. Fill in a more detailed feedback form.

We will gather feedback in October and November so that we can print a revised version in early 2021. We have also asked Rebone Ntsie (Director for Nutrition Programmes at NDoH) for feedback.

Diabetes registry:

We are working with Dr Patrick Ngassa Piotie from the University of Pretoria on a diabetes registry proposal. We will set up a call with Unjani Clinics in September to find out what they have learned about low-cost data collection and what they advise. Perhaps they have a system that could be plugged into NDoH clinics. We would also like to discuss how they manage internet in their clinics, as this is potentially an issue in some NDoH clinics. Once we have input from Unjani Clinics, we will finalise the proposal and present it to the Diabetes Alliance board and thereafter all members for buy-in.

Next steps: September

  1. Continue developing the diabetes registry proposal.
  2. Hold a National Diabetes Month planning meeting for the Diabetes Alliance to align goals.
  3. Read IDF Atlas for any relevant local information.

The 2020 Diabetes Education Project by Sweet Life is supported by Pick n Pay and BD.

Read the whole diabetes education research series:

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.