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  • Andrea Chipman — United Kingdom

Insights for Preventing Diabetes in Latin America

Better collaboration between all stakeholders is key to preventing and diagnosing diabetes in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) in Latin America, where pressure on healthcare resources remains intense.

A recent talk organized in collaboration with Merck KGAa brought together speakers José Javier Arango Alvarez, president of the Colombian Association of Internal Medicine (ACMI) and a specialist in internal medicine and nephrology,  Érika Montañez, director and founder of the ‘Voces Diabetes Colombia’ Foundation, and proponent of the first Intersectoral Working Group in Colombia for Non-communicable Diseases. The conversation was moderated by Mariana Gómez, director of international markets at Beyond Type 1 and creator of ‘Dulcesitos para mi’, one of the first online spaces for people with Type 1 diabetes in Mexico.

The roundtable discussion looked at how to think more creatively about preventing diabetes in Latin America given the direct and indirect resource scarcity facing those living with diabetes and the medical community, as well as suggesting new ways of improving the collective capacity of emerging markets to tackle the prevention and diagnosis of prediabetes and diabetes.

Q: In the webinar, you shared that what is missing in the prevention of diabetes and pre-diabetes is to “identify and bring together relevant stakeholders… because by doing this, we pin-point what it is we need to work on.” How do you think we can give equitable voices, for example to patients, when bringing all relevant stakeholders to identify needs and action points?”

JAA: The idea is when we show that all the actors are concerned about the same issue, we give the sign of unity and concern, and the best way to do this is to talk about prevention. Prevention is the common meeting point of all the actors.

Q: In the webinar, you shared that the problem is not only access to medications, but rather, prevention. How do you think prevention methods can be promoted in areas and for people with a lack of resources?

JAA: By controlling the risk factors, such as encouraging exercise (which is free) according to personal preferences. I spoke of the example of “days to dance” in areas of Colombia, where the community comes together to dance and learn about, for example, how to feed themselves with harvested food (permaculture), amongst other things.

Q: You shared the importance of data, saying that “from data we open up opportunities”. How can obtaining and strengthening data improve the prevention and treatment of diabetes?

JAA: By sharing the information with all the actors. For example, when the insurance provider knows in which areas the patients suffer more obesity, they carry out actions to improve it. When the hospital provider knows from which area the most patients come from, they carry out more prevention campaigns. It’s all about transparency.

Q: During the webinar, you highlighted the importance of tracing back to the psychological root causes of precursors to diabetes, namely obesity. How is Voces Diabetes Colombia involving psychological interventions for the prevention of obesity, and type 2 diabetes?

EM: At Voces Diabetes Colombia, we created the first social and free program for people with obesity. We are currently hosting our first cohort, with 102 people registered. The Obesity Schools have a conductive and psychological approach that helps us understand the nutritional needs and patient types in order to help. The first cohort has yielded incredible results and we consider that this project will be a perfect model of an educational approach that.

Q: In the webinar, you said, “I think that the challenge that we face as a nation is the issue of coming together. Imagine if we were all linked together.” What solutions do you propose to improve collective capacity, and how is Voces Diabetes Colombia contributing to this?

EM: The best response would be to see the working agreements between Ministries. The pandemic is demonstrating to us that we must work to unite to improve the development of our regions. Working together means exploring the current options, improving them, and bringing actors together, rather than re-inventing the wheel. All relevant bodies should be present, with patients as the protagonists. This involves the healthcare industry linking with other relevant bodies, to work towards strengthening systems.


The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Re:solve Global Health.


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