Damaris is a diabetes educator and research assistant who works with Mayan Guatemalans living in rural areas of the Sololá and Chimaltenango regions. Her job is important to her – she knows the positive impact that education can have on the management of a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes.
“My biggest challenge in helping patients with diabetes is making sure they understand that diabetes is a manageable condition, and that when you manage it well you can lead a normal life,” she says.
This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that many of Damaris’ patients speak only their maternal language, and don’t understand the Spanish spoken by government and health authorities.
A WDF project with Wuqu’ Kawoq (The Maya Health Alliance (WK)) has provided her with some useful tools. The project developed a Diabetes Self-Management Education curriculum in three languages (Spanish, Kaqchikel Maya and K’iche’ Maya), and in 2018, Damaris received training in how to implement it.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated things beyond imagination. Enrolment of new patients in the programme slowed; face-to-face meetings ended, replaced by telephone calls from healthcare staff to their patients.
“Patients are not attending their monthly check-ups. Some only go every two or three months,” she says.
During the pandemic, Damaris has seen signs of burnout in her patients. But she and her colleagues are working hard to motivate them to continue their self-care, she says - for the sake of their own health, and to prevent diabetes in future generations.
“It’s my job to cheer them on and to persist with their education so that they can find motivation to keep fighting and continue their self-management,” she says. “With some of them it has been extremely hard, but we’ve achieved it.”
Damaris received training via the project Implementing a model for diabetes self-management within two different public health system settings in rural Guatemala, WDF 17-1489.