People living with Type 1 diabetes are a largely ignored group. The main emphasis of all diabetes awareness is – rightly – on the 90% of those living with Type 2 diabetes, who are leading the death tolls for South African women in South Africa, according to Stats SA.
But the lived experience of those with Type 1 is often difficult – and scary. Walking a tightrope between low blood glucose that could result in an emergency, and high blood glucose that could result in long-term complications. Now a petition with more than 5,000 signatures is asking for support for all those living with Type 1 in South Africa.
Uniting people with diabetes in SA
SA Diabetes Advocacy, an alliance of all the organisations for people with diabetes in South Africa, has lodged an appeal with the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) to make flash glucose monitors a Prescribed Minimum Benefit (PMB) for all those with Type 1 diabetes in South Africa.
This sensor technology allows people with Type 1 diabetes to do away with painful, outdated fingersticks and see 24 hour data of how their blood glucose responds to medication, diet and exercise. It also helps them guard against terrifying emergency situations that would otherwise result in hospitalisation.
Making life easier – and safer – for those with Type 1 diabetes
“Living with Type 1 diabetes is exhausting,” explains SA Diabetes Advocacy chairperson Bridget McNulty, who has had Type 1 for 14 years. “The constant attempts to balance blood sugar with insulin, exercise, hormones, stress, sleep and daily life can sometimes feel impossible.” There is something that makes it significantly easier, though – sensor technology.
“Easier also means safer, because we’re at less risk of emergency hypo situations, and long-term complications from hypers.” Flash glucose monitors are the most affordable Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) available, and are seen as the standard of care in many countries. South Africa is still stuck on outdated fingersticks which, at best, provide 5 individual moments of blood glucose data – rather than 24 hours of continuous readings.
Lived experience of those with Type 1 diabetes
“We’ve collected 47 pages of heartbreaking testimonials from people with Type 1, speaking about how sensor technology is essential,” says Bridget. “Honestly, the experiences some of our community have lived through… It’s intense. Frequent hospital visits, driving a car on the verge of blacking out from low blood glucose, scraping off calluses with nail clippers to be able to prick fingers, having to wake children up at 3am to prick their fingers – it’s a lot.”
Appeal to the CMS
The appeal to the CMS, supported by both patient and doctor testimonials, as well as clinical evidence, will be submitted on Monday 14th February. Some of the core reasons that people with diabetes are asking for this tech include:
- Critical management of Type 1 diabetes in children
- Help for the hypo unaware
- Avoiding emergency situations
- Fewer hospitalisations
- Help during high-risk pregnancy
- Reduction in HbA1c: protection against future complications
- Improved physical and mental health
- Better diabetes insight leading to better diabetes control
- Reduced damage to fingertips
“All we’re asking is to please give us access to the sensor technology we need to avoid future harm from Type 1 diabetes,” says Bridget. “This is literally life changing.”
What to read next?
Find out more about SA Diabetes Advocacy: www.diabetesadvocacy.org.za
Check out the petition – and the many comments about why it’s so important: https://www.change.org/p/council-for-medical-schemes-cms-make-sensor-technology-a-pmb-for-type-1s-in-south-africa
Read about the difference between the two types of diabetes: https://sweetlife.org.za/what-are-type-1-and-type-2-diabetes/