Becoming a knowledge hub
“Over the next decade, we will have to be more creative and work more closely together to tackle diabetes -and Africa will be at the heart of the fight.” Greg Tracz, CEO of Diabetes Africa, believes his organisation can make a difference by identifying and promoting innovation and innovators.
A passionate association executive with 12 years of experience, Mr Tracz is committed to making a change, but readily admits that he is not a diabetes specialist himself. “I am here to contribute my experience of non-profit organisation management and communications. The rest is inspired by our founder, our members and our advisers, who are at the heart of what we do.” The engine behind the organisation is his wife, Dr. Bernadette Adeyileka-Tracz, a British-Nigerian pharmacist whose family has been affected by diabetes and its complications. Dr Adeyileka-Tracz began the journey by identifying and connecting healthcare professionals from across the continent and the diaspora, and extending the network to entrepreneurs, financiers, and decision-makers looking for new ways to alleviate the burden of the disease. “It was difficult to navigate the landscape and understand who was doing what. This is where we started” she explains. “We would like to be a knowledge hub for everyone working on diabetes across the continent.”
“There is a wealth of experience to be shared in Africa about managing diabetes in low resource environment and solutions that we can all adopt.” says Eva Njenga, Chair of the NCD Alliance of Kenya and adviser to the organisation. “Diabetes Africa adds a piece to the puzzle of solving diabetes across the continent”.
The non-profit organisation is keen to broaden its reach beyond the medical field. For Mr Tracz, this is about awareness and creativity. “We need people from outside the medical field to pay attention to this issue”. “Sometimes, also, outsiders can bring a fresh perspective on a topic” he remarks.
The global cost of diabetes and its consequences is high and will substantially increase by 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges faced by professionals have just highlighted the urgency of the healthcare situation in Africa and the need for outside-the-box thinking.
To keep healthcare connected and thinking during the pandemic, Diabetes Africa has launched a series of live events online that are growing in popularity. “Our series is called Active Conversations, because we want them to be as interactive as possible and contribute to identify solutions” explains Dr. Adeyileka-Tracz. Tshidi Mbonani, a senior podiatrist from South Africa, was happy to participate as a conversation leader: “COVID-19 has been brutal for professionals and patients, but we are living through uncertainties constantly, particularly in South Africa. In this new environment, we need to maintain engagement and continued conversations to improve patient outcomes and harness collaboration among healthcare professionals.”
Despite the technical challenges associated with the live event, close to 200 healthcare professionals and business executives have logged in to participate in the first broadcasts. Mr Tracz puts things into perspective: “Yes we’ve had a few glitches and the remote connection is imperfect, but that’s nothing compared to the technical challenges healthcare professionals in Africa have to face on a daily basis”.
The enthusiasm certainly makes up for the technical challenges: “We were amazed by the response and the enthusiasm of participants” says Dr Adeyileka-Tracz. Dr Njenga explains the reasons for her participation: “With these conversations, we can borrow from each other. What are the best buys? what are the challenges and how have we addressed them?”
A vibrant community
Mr. Tracz believes exchanges among the community will help improve diabetes care: “Without leveraging energies more widely, across geographies and industries, the impact of diabetes will continue to wreck havoc on the economies of the continent.
Using diabetes as a starting point for a conversation around broader structural and medical challenges, Diabetes Africa offers a platform to encourage ground-breaking ideas and actions within the community of people and organisations who help fight diabetes and related diseases every day.
To become a member or get involved, healthcare and other business professionals can visit: www.diabetesafrica.org
This article was originally published by DiaBeaters (Kenya).