Diabetes Alliance represented at International Diabetes Congress 

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Congress is a unique forum for knowledge exchange, bringing together a global network of health professionals, advocates and people living with diabetes.

Diabetes Alliance presenting at IDF Congress 2022

This year, the South African Diabetes Alliance submitted an abstract which was not only selected for e-poster display but also for an e-poster discussion live in Lisbon on Tuesday 6th December. 

The abstract and poster are titled South Africa’s Diabetes Charter: a voice for South Africans living with diabetes, and discussed the South African Diabetes Charter, which was created for the 2021 Diabetes Summit.

In November 2021, South Africans living and working with diabetes came together to develop SA’s first Diabetes Charter: a framework for setting adequate standards of healthcare in diabetes.

Collaborative experience

The Diabetes Alliance called upon volunteers to discuss the diabetes response and identify challenges. These included:

  • South Africans with diabetes
  • Academics
  • Healthcare providers (endocrinologists, diabetes educators, podiatrists, dieticians, and ophthalmologists) and 
  • Other stakeholders 

The volunteers were organized in five workstreams, each focusing on a specific theme aligned to the WHO Global Diabetes Compact:

  1. Awareness and Prevention
  2. Education
  3. Management and Access to Care
  4. Surveillance
  5. Research and Innovation

Lessons learnt from IDF Congress

The IDF Congress had a strong South African representation, and a number of fascinating subject streams, including Clinical, Therapeutic and Technology Research, Diabetes in Women, Basic and Translational Science, Diabetes Complications and Comorbidities, Epidemiology and Public Health, Health Services and Policy, Education and Integrated Care and – unique to IDF – Living with Diabetes. 

There were many lessons to be learnt – from other countries like Kenya and Pakistan who are working towards setting up diabetes registries and make data available from essentially paper-based systems to scientists reporting on mental health and diabetes (a pertinent topic for South Africans with diabetes) and the ticking time bomb that is gestational diabetes, which increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the offspring by a staggering 8 times. 

Advocacy around the world

There were also many lessons to be learnt from the many diabetes advocates and those working in diabetes who converged in Lisbon from all over the world. These included discussions on topics like the hidden impacts of diabetes beyond the cost of insulin; understanding the diabetes experience through the lens of culture; creating inclusive, safe spaces for the diabetes community; and health system responses to innovation and technologies. Crucially for South Africans, there was also advice about how to use the IDF Atlas for advocacy with policy makers, and patient participation in policy and systems.

Women’s issues featured strongly – not only gestational diabetes and the lack of follow-through with women who have presented with gestational diabetes and are at double the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, but also specifically women’s issues that impact diabetes self-care, and the extra burden they often carry in the home. 

Health literacy and behaviour change

While many of the speakers spoke through the lens of developed countries, there was also information on health literacy in countries with many different languages, behaviour modifications for the lifestyle aspects of living with diabetes, and the importance of reducing diabetes stigma across the board – as well as practical ideas for how to do that. Peer support was mentioned again and again as an effective way to make living with diabetes more manageable.

As well as the many scientific and lived experience sessions, the IDF Congress offered the opportunity for South African delegates to connect with international colleagues, make new connections, and forge stronger bonds for South Africans with diabetes, across the world. It was an inspiring end to 2022, and filled the Diabetes Alliance team with ideas for 2023!

Some of the South African delegation (L to R): Dr. Patrick Ngassa Piotie, Liana Grobbelaar, Kirsten De Klerk, Bridget McNulty, Cathy Haldane, Thapi Semenya, Prof. Paul Rheeder.

Find out more about the Diabetes Alliance at www.diabetesalliance.org.za or contact info@diabetesalliance.org.za 

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