Type 2 diabetes: improving awareness of insulin management in the South Asian population

Certain ethnic groups have a tendency to develop Type 2 diabetes. People from a south Asian background have a two to three times higher risk. This is mainly due to genetics and lifestyle factors. But it doesn’t mean that people from south Asian communities should resign themselves to this greater probability of developing the disease. Like people from other ethnicities, eating a healthy, balanced diet and living an active lifestyle will dramatically reduce the risk of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It’s a simple yet effective message, says Kamlesh Khunti.

Leicester, where I’m based, has a large Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) population. As a result, Professor Davies and I have naturally developed a keen and active interest in Type 2 diabetes awareness and prevention. One of the key challenges we face is language barriers.  To overcome these barriers we’ve translated our highly successful Type 2 diabetes risk assessment tool into south Asian languages. Last year we launched versions in Gujarati and Bengali and last month we held an event to celebrate the latest translation of the document into Gurmukhi Punjabi.

The work of the Leicester Diabetes Centre (LDC) has led us to launch the Centre for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Health.  This is a dedicated unit which works to reduce ethnic health inequality in the region, by sharing resources and promoting research.  An example of the centre’s work is the RADIATE programme.  Its aim is to increase awareness around the consequences of developing Type 2 diabetes through a six-month community engagement programme.  It’s based around a series of activities, including dancing sessions and healthy eating workshops, in a bid to help prevent people from an ethnic background developing this serious condition, which unbeknown to many can have devastating complications.

Insulin therapy is often required to control Type 2 diabetes, especially as the disease progresses.  However, people from a south Asian background are less likely to be introduced to insulin despite having poor diabetes control.  We think the reasons for lower rates of insulin usage in south Asians is down to cultural health beliefs and also psycho-social barriers.

The LDC, together with the South Asian Health Foundation (SAHF), has also recently been commissioned by NHS England to develop a programme of diabetes education and awareness raising aimed specifically at south Asian populations. This includes the development of an insulin initiation multimedia DVD/You Tube materials, aimed at educating people with Type 2 diabetes and healthcare professionals, with a view to supporting the training of educators.

LDC and the centre for BME Health along with SAHF will apply its broad expertise and experience to develop the educational multimedia material working closely with a production company.  We will work with our patient panel and health care professionals ensuring co-production with key stakeholders. Content will be created, filmed, edited and translated into five south Asian languages. The film will also be converted into multimedia formats including DVD and You Tube for our various audiences. We hope to start the work over the next few weeks and have the materials ready for launch by end of the year.

We will be working closely with NHS England to ensure the relevant communities are able to access the materials easily; with the aim of helping people within specific communities access the knowledge to effectively manage their diabetes.

The key to better health outcomes is to be informed, and it is hoped this culturally competent and sensitive resource will be an important contribution in achieving this.

Kamlesh Khunti

Kamlesh Khunti is Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, UK. He is Co-Director of the Leicester Diabetes Centre and leads a research group that is currently working on the early identification of, and interventions with, people who have diabetes or are at increased risk of developing diabetes.

His work has influenced national and international guidelines on the screening and management of people with diabetes. Professor Khunti is also Director of the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care East Midlands and Director of The Real World Evidence Unit and the Centre for Black Minority Ethnic Health. He is a NIHR Senior Investigator and Principal Investigator on several major national and international studies.

Professor Khunti is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and is currently an advisor to the Department of Health, a Clinical Advisor for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Secretary of the Primary Care Study Group of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. He is Past Chair of the Department of Health–RCGP Committee on Classification of Diabetes and is Past Chair of the NICE Guidelines on Prevention of Diabetes.

In addition, he is Co-Director of the Diabetes MSc at Leicester University. He has won numerous awards nationally and internationally.

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