Whitireia Nursing Pacific tutor Dr Lucy Nguma believes the key to addressing soaring rates of diabetes across the world is greater public education, and says it is fantastic that the focus of last week’s World Health Day was on increasing awareness about the disease and its staggering burden and consequences.
World Health Day is an annual initiative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has called for serious action in this area. Around 442 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with the disease and that number is expected to double in the next 20 years. In New Zealand, 250,000 people are affected by the condition, and another 40 are diagnosed every day.
Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and lower limb amputation, and WHO projects that it will be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030. However, it can be treated effectively with a healthy diet, regular exercise, medication, and regular screening and treatment for complications.
Dr Nguma’s PhD research focussed on health seeking and health-related behaviour for type 2 diabetes, and she says that the condition could be more effectively controlled and managed by increasing access to diagnosis, self-management education and affordable treatment.
She says that these issues are particularly pronounced in low- and middle-income countries, such as her home country of Tanzania, but notes that they also contribute to poor diabetes-related outcomes in some New Zealand communities. She points out that Pasifika people have much higher rates of diabetes, as well as diabetes mortality and complications, compared to the total New Zealand population.
Dr Nguma, who also has a Bachelor of Arts in sociology, an Advanced Diploma in Nursing Education and a Master in Public Health, began teaching on the Whitireia Bachelor of Nursing Pacific programme this year, specialising in bioscience and nursing knowledge. She says her diverse background gives her a holistic perspective on health services, and notes that this inclusive approach is vital to the delivery of education on the Nursing Pacific programme.
The programme has been designed specifically for Pacific students, with a particular focus on the health needs of Pacific communities within the New Zealand context. Dr Nguma says her background will also provide these students with a deep understanding of the issues surrounding diabetes in their communities, and provide them with the tools to best deal with these when they are working in the health sector.