It began in 2004 with a simple idea. By organising walks on November 14 - World Diabetes Day - organisations and individuals could raise awareness about diabetes, and how to prevent it. These walks would be low-cost, educational, and fun. WDF would help by providing banners, tools, and guidance.
Since then, thousands of Global Diabetes Walks worldwide have raised awareness, galvanised communities – and, in some cases, even changed public policy. WDF contacted three exceptional organisers to hear what the events have achieved in their communities, and to hear their tips for making 2019 the most impactful year yet.
Since its founding in 2014, SDMI has organised Walks in the Banaadir Region of Somalia, which includes the city of Mogadishu and most of the country’s population. The first Somali Global Diabetes Walk attracted 800 participants, the second 1200 participants, the third 1500 participants, and the fourth 1600. Last year, the walk campaign held in Mogadishu and its outskirts drew a record 2500 people.
The walk campaigns have contributed to a major awareness and screening program in the Banaadir Region. Diabetes centres have reported more people seeking care, including many who previously used traditional approaches to treating diabetes symptoms, says Mohammed Gedi Sheikhow, General Secretary, SDMI.
“Lack of information regarding diabetes is a major problem in Somalia as many people are affected by the disease, yet they still remain unaware of its complications,” he says. “The walk campaigns in the Benaadir Region have gained the attention of the government and the ministry of health in Somalia. This has led to more focus on diabetes.”
To those considering organising a walk in 2019, Dr Sheikhow says: “Your plans are imperative. Diabetes awareness is vital today given that lack of information is detrimental to the health of the diabetic patients and the people at risk.”
SDMI recommends that organisers prioritise the following:
1. Reach out to media channels. To advertise your walk, use the local radio, newspapers and televisions. Contact the media as early as possible, seek assistance in promoting your walk and invite them to your event.
2. Use social media. Facebook and the Twitter bring together many people. Create online Facebook events through Facebook pages for participants to attend.
3. Organise field activities like football matches, basketball and volleyball games, and marathons. Through these events, youths can be mobilised and therefore many participants can be recruited into the events.
In 2013, the Colombian Ministry of Health recognised the city of Barranquilla for its holistic approach to diabetes awareness and capacity building. To support and build on these accomplishments, the local NGO Fundacion Vida Nueva began organising annual Global Diabetes Walks. Since November 2013, the NGO has organised annual walks that have attracted approximately 25,000 participants.
The number of people with risk factors seeking care for diabetes prevention in Barranquilla has increased by at least 50% since 2013, says Joaquín Armenta Ferreira, Doctor Endocrinologist and President of the Diabetological Federation and Vice President of the Fundación Vida Nueva. Screening in pregnant women for detection of gestational diabetes in Barranquilla went from less than 2% to 95%, he adds, even as levels of physical activity and consumption of healthy foods in Barranquilla have increased.
“The World Diabetes Walk is the public health campaign with the greatest impact in Barranquilla and the diabetes prevention campaign with the greatest impact in Colombia,” he says. “The Walk has driven the issue of diabetes into the local public agenda, including the issue of risk factors.”
Walk organisers should think big – and involve as many different groups as possible, says Alejandro Díaz Bernier, Medico Diabetologo President of the Fundación Vida Nueva.
“I would advise that in the organisation of the activities not only involved health personnel and patients, but also leaders and individuals from all social sectors - universities, employers, teachers, employees, unions, etc.”
Jain Hospitals has organized the largest Walks in the history of the campaign, inspiring other ambitious organisers worldwide. By collaborating with government officials, the Ministry of Health and NGOs, Jain Hospitals has organised 898 Global DiabetesWalks with 475,000 participants to date.
For the last three years, the state Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a letter to all districts and blocks in Uttar Pradesh, encouraging participation in Global Diabetes Walks on 14 November. Screening camps, marathons, and other sports competitions have also taken place, with official support.
A survey of around 1400 public sector health care professionals found that diabetes knowledge increased from 25% to 70%, says Dr Rajesh Jain, Chairman, Jain Hospital. Another survey found increased demand for diabetes screening among the public in 998 healthcare facilities.
“Previously, diabetes screening was available in one block in each district, now it is available in all the districts and all the blocks. It is mandatory to screen all patients above 30 years, and requests for screening and other services have increased by more than 20 times,” he says, adding that the above data has been accepted for publication in an international journal.
The Global Diabetes Walk campaigns have supported wider efforts to improve diabetes prevention and care in Uttar Pradesh – especially efforts to improve diabetes awareness, Dr Jain says.
The 15th anniversary of the campaign creates opportunities, Dr Jain says. Jain Hospitals will mark the 15th Anniversary by concentrating on schools, colleges, and youth organisations. Jain Hospitals’ plans include:
- Highlighting the 2019 WDD theme Diabetes and Family in posters, banners, and digital media.
- Setting and publicising a fixed time and place for the walks
- Inviting government administrators to walks as Chief Guests
- Inviting celebrities to one or two of the bigger walks to attract younger participants
“Brisk walking for 30 minutes at least five days a week prevents not only diabetes but other NCDs, and it increases joy hormones. Walking is great way to communicate, laugh with our friends, sisters and brothers, and leads to connectedness with nature and self-awareness,” he says.
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