This week marks Diabetes Week, an annual UK-wide initiative devoted to raising awareness of diabetes and raising money to help fund research into the condition.
More than 4.9 million people live with diabetes in the UK and a further 13.6 million are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes during their lifetime.
There are three major types of diabetes, type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy in women).
Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes and is a disease that occurs when blood glucose, also called blood sugar, gets too high. Blood glucose is the main source of energy in a person’s body and comes from the food that we eat.
Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose get into cells to be used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, a person’s body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin well.
Too much glucose then stays in the blood, and not enough reaches the body’s cells. To control this from not happening, people with type 2 diabetes often need to change the way they eat and exercise and take a medication called metformin.
Type 1 diabetes is far lesson common, with only around 8% to 10% of people in the UK being diagnosed with this type of condition, with it not being linked to age, lifestyle or being overweight.
Often dubbed as the ‘Diabetes Capital of the UK,’ around one in ten people (12,116) residents in Bradford are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, compared to approximately 6.9% across the UK, according to statistics from leading the leading diabetes group, Diabetes UK.
People from the South Asian community, are six times more at risk of being diagnosed with the condition, compared to the white community. It is not entirely known why this is the case, but many experts believe diet, lifestyle and different ways of storing fat in the body all play a major part in upping the risk.
Despite the condition being extremely prevalent in the South Asian community in Bradford, many believe that there is a gap in knowledge, education and help available to those living with type 2 diabetes in the district.
Mohammed Joynal, the project manager at the Bangladesh Youth Organisation in Manningham has raised awareness for diabetes in the community for the past few years, working in partnership with VCS Alliance.
“Doctors have good intentions when telling people their diagnosis, but they don’t have much time, with appointments only lasting ten minutes. Over the past two years during the pandemic, surgeries have been largely closed. People have not had their check-ups.” – Mohammed Joynal.
Mr Joynal believes that GPs, who are often overworked, do not have the time or resources to help people understand their diagnosis and that they often do not signpost individuals to other service providers, which means that many are left without the help, support and education that they need.
He said: “Bradford is the diabetes capital of the UK; the district has a staggering amount of people diagnosed with diabetes.
“Doctors have good intentions when telling people their diagnosis, but they don’t have much time, with appointments only lasting ten minutes. Over the past two years during the pandemic, surgeries have been largely closed. People have not had their check-ups.
“Sadly, it is a disease that can be prevented. It is nice to see that more slowly people are taking advice from local diabetes programmes. It is so important that people access the right support and help to support the condition becoming a bigger problem and damaging other parts of the body.
“Some people, have accepted that they are diabetic or will be diabetic, it is so common that everyone knows people in their family with the disease. I think people don’t understand the seriousness of the condition as well.”
Faz Haq, the centre manager at the Bangladesh Youth Organization, who has worked at the community group since it was created in 1982, was diagnosed with type two diabetes a few years ago.
He has a different view and says the advice he was given by his doctor was easy to follow and that he understood the seriousness of having to change his eating patterns to bring his diabetes under control.
Mr Haq, said: “I found out that I had diabetes a few years ago. It was quite a shock as I am quite active. I used to play sports and now I do a lot of walking. When I was first diagnosed the GP gave me advice, which I followed.
“You have to take your diagnosis seriously otherwise the consequences can be very bad. I manage my diabetes through my diet, exercising, and taking my medication. I also work as much as I can, avoiding red meat and eating mostly chicken and vegetarian food.”
Daksha Chauhan-Keys, an independent consultant at DC Keys Consultancy, is the director of a non-profit organisation, Pathway to Wellness Ltd, that provides health and wellbeing sessions to people in the South Asian community, specialising in diabetes support in Hindu Temples.
She said that elders have been excluded from accessing help as provisions are held digitally, and nutrition programmes to help with type two diabetes are often not translated into different languages and do not include advice for the South Asian diet.
Mrs Chauhan-Keys, said: “We found that when everything closed during the first lockdown, most services transitioned to online platforms but that many in our community do not have digital skills to access help.
“The five directors of the CIC have experience with having parents diagnosed with diabetes, dementia and other ailments. We found that our parents were not given help or advice or signposted to other services, they were put on medication straight away.
“GPs are very quick to diagnose but often do provide information on the help that is available out there. We found that some of the nutrition education programmes are either held remote or just in English. We also found that the programmes do not include advice on the Asian diet. So, our events with clinicians help to bridge the gap.”
In December, Diabetes UK announced the launch of its ground-breaking partnership with the local NHS in Bradford to “to tackle the diabetes crisis head on.”
Clare Howarth, Head of the North of England at Diabetes UK said: “Diabetes is a serious condition, requiring constant management. Without the right treatment, care and support, the condition can lead to devastating, life-altering complications – including heart attack, kidney failure, stroke, foot disease and blindness. But we know that with the right care and support, diabetes complications can be avoided, and cases of type 2 diabetes can be put into remission or prevented altogether.
“Through our partnership with Act As One, we want to build on some of the brilliant work already happening across Bradford and Craven to support the over 44,000 people living with diabetes and the thousands more who are at risk of type 2 diabetes. We know that by working together we maximise our ability to tackle the diabetes crisis and work towards a world where diabetes can do no harm.”