Education has a central role to play in addressing the shortage of skills and knowledge that impedes diabetes care in Nigeria. The number of healthcare professionals who demonstrate a solid understanding of the principles of diabetes care and education is largely inadequate to meet the needs.
To address the urgent needs across the continent, the Lancet Commission on Diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa (2017) recommended that trained diabetes educators be present at the local level to support community health workers and people with diabetes.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the University of Abuja and Diabetes Africa provides a framework to facilitate exchanges between the university and Diabetes Africa’s network. The objective of this partnership is to build knowledge, support and document the launch of an academic Master’s degree in diabetes education, with a view of inspiring other institutions across the continent.
Speaking on the occasion of the virtual signing ceremony on 8th January 2021, Prof. Felicia Anumah, professor of medicine, endocrinology and diabetology and Dean of the Faculty of Clinical Sciences, laid out the ambition of a “dual-mode programme mixing virtual learning and face-to-face training in health centres”. Dr Habib Yakoob, the University’s Head for Information and University Relations, explained that the programme would receive support from Diabetes Africa in the form of experience, expertise and fundraising, to ensure its long-term sustainability.
Photo. Virtual signing ceremony on 8 January 2021.
Dr Bernadette Adeyileka-Tracz, founder and COO of Diabetes Africa, explained the reason for this partnership: “Diabetes Africa exists to enhance collaboration among all parties working to improve diabetes education, diagnosis and care in Africa and in people of African origin. If we are to tackle the tremendous challenges of diabetes and chronic diseases in Africa, we will have to work more closely together and share information and innovation better. This MoU is the first step towards doing just that and linking the University to our wider network.”
Diabetes Africa Adviser and Chair of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council Dr Eva Njenga welcomed a “pioneer initiative for Africa.” Highlighting the challenges of educating patients and training healthcare professionals adequately, Dr Njenga noted that a lack of recognition of diabetes education by academic institutions and regulators was impeding progress across the continent. “This is a milestone towards the recognition of diabetes education” said Dr. Njenga. “We hope that this will give other countries courage and inspiration. Getting medical schools, health regulators, specialised councils to accept and recognise diabetes education as a speciality is an important step in the right direction.”
Photo. Prof. Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Abuja at the signing ceremony. Credit: University of Abuja.
Chair of the East African Diabetes Study Group and Lead for the Diabetes Africa Chamber on Sustainable Education, Prof. Silver Bahendeka expressed his support, particularly considering the recent developments around COVID-19. “If you look around the Africa region, the main problem is diabetes education”, he explained in his remarks. “Data for type 1 diabetes has showed that the COVID pandemic was generally associated with improvement of diabetes control, except in Africa, where the pandemic has made it difficult for people to access information via health centres; people have suffered from a lack of appropriate diabetes education.”
Vice-Chancellor for the University of Abuja Prof. Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, thanked the partners alongside Prof. Anumah for driving the initiative. “I express total support for this collaboration. I hope it will be a mark for training in this area. Hopefully this will lead to better knowledge, management, and treatment of diabetes in Africa,” he said at the signing of the memorandum.
Progress in the establishment of the degree will be shared with the members of the Diabetes Africa Chamber on Sustainable Education.
Photo. Members of the University of Abuja Faculty, including Prof. Felicia Anumah (second from left). Credit: University of Abuja.
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