Kyrgyzstan's older activists take diabetes issues and concerns to the top
"Let's take diabetes under control" was HelpAge Kyrgyzstan's Age Demands Action (ADA) on Health campaign theme this year. On 7 April, World Health Day, we mobilised older people in the capital Bishkek, as well as in the regions, and held dance flashmobs and a running race to raise awareness of the increasing prevalence of diabetes through. We also held a round table where older activists could table questions and concerns about the national diabetes programme to medical specialists and state representatives, while recommendations were made for patient benefits and service access.
This work is absolutely integral to tackle what is a rising health concern in Kyrgyzstan. The number of people with type 2 diabetes grew from 25,338 in 2006 to 51,000 in 2016, according to the Kyrgyz Republic's Ministry of Health. This is, however, just official data on registered cases. There are concerns that if this number included undiagnosed cases it would grow to between 120,000 and 150,000.
Older activists meet the Minister of Health
Our activity did not end on 7 April! Three weeks later on 29 April, HelpAge Kyrgyzstan and older activists were able to take the recommendations from the round table and share their healthcare issues and concerns with Kyrgyzstan's Minister of Health Dr Talant Batyraliev.
"It is necessary to promote diabetes prevention and early diagnosis to better manage the conditions and avoid complications," Layla Akchurina, older activist and member of ADA steering group, told him.
"There should be an extensive information campaign held in healthcare institutions that older people regularly visit. This will better educate patients, including those with diabetes, about the state programme that provides them with free medication and services. Many people are simply unaware it."
Dr Batyraliev highlighted that the unstable political and economic situation in Kyrgyzstan limits the extent to which he can make healthcare reforms.
"Eighty per cent of the state budget goes towards medical staff salaries, leaving nearly nothing to improve healthcare infrastructure, provide free medication and prepare qualified specialists, including endocrinologists," he said.
"I am trying to attract international funds to make necessary changes to our healthcare system".
Dr Batyraliev added that he values HelpAge's support in diabetes awareness raising and promoting healthy lifestyles through public campaigning and information sharing.
How could the national diabetes programme in Kyrgyzstan be improved?
"We need a national diabetes programme that would guarantee prevention, treatment and social protection of patients with diabetes," said Nurdin Satarov, HelpAge International's Programme Manager in Kyrgyzstan, as he presented the recommendations to the minister.
They encourage the Kyrgyzstan Government to:
- assist in providing older diabetes patients with full access to healthcare services and consultations with specialists
- realise the rights of diabetes patients through informing them about diabetes legislation, the national programme on non-communicable diseases and the state guarantee programme, which gives them access to free medication
- promote self-management of diabetes individually and in self-help groups to better prevent complications of the condition
- build capacity of medical specialists/endocrinologists to provide qualified help to patients with diabetes
- promote active lifestyles and healthy diets among patients with diabetes and risk groups
- create a national endocrinological centre where diabetic patients can receive qualified medical consultations and treatment.
The recommendations were well received by Dr Batyraliev and he promised that the Ministry of Health working group will build on the national diabetes programme, and he will put all his efforts in to creating a national endocrinological centre.
He added that his doors are always open to older people, and from now on there is no need to book an appointment in advance - older people can come directly to his office to raise their issues.
To meet with the minister and have this dialogue was a huge success for our activists and us. We received his acknowledgement and the older activists walked out with pride and confidence that their voices have finally been heard!