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Academic tackles diabetes among black Londoners

RAISING AWARENESS: Dr Ojo (centre) during a recent health campaign in Nigeria; inset, a diabetes session in Romford, Essex

BIOCHEMIST from the University of East London (UEL) is aiming to highlight the threat of diabetes to people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities through a new health campaign.

Dr Opeolu Ojo, a lecturer in bio- chemistry at UEL, has launched a civic engagement project to promote awareness of diabetes in two London boroughs with high BAME population, Newham and Barking & Dagenham, and in one London borough with a low BAME population, Havering.

The campaign also hopes to encourage people who are at risk of developing the disease to take appro- priate actions to secure their health and wellbeing.

A number of events have been planned throughout the year, culminating in a week of events in National Diabetes Week in June (7 – 15).

UEL students will be in attendance at all the planned events, engaging with members of the public, assess- ing BMIs, taking blood pressure and measuring blood sugar levels. Activities at the event will include screening of members of the public for risk factors of diabetes via the measurement of BMI, blood glucose levels (by finger-prick method) and blood pressure measurements.

Educational material which provides basic and essential information on diabetes and its risk factors will be distributed as will lifestyle questionnaires. Dr Ojo told The Voice: “We strongly hope that this campaign will increase public understanding of issues surrounding diabetes and its management.

“It will also stimulate debate on the health implications of diets and other cultural activities that are particular to people from BAME ethnic backgrounds.” He added: “We also strongly believe that activities planned as part of this project will deepen discussions and dialogues around diabetes, health and wellbeing within the community, leading to improved diabetic outcomes in people already diagnosed with the disease or reduced incidence of new cases of diabetes.”

In the UK, one in 16 people suffers from diabetes – diagnosed or undiagnosed – and about four million people currently live with the disease (Diabetes UK, 2016). The total cost associated with dia- betes in the UK currently stands at £23.7 billion.

An increasing body of evidence implicates ethnicity in the development of Type 2 diabetes, with Asians and West Africans among the most at risk groups. However, knowledge of the risk factors, along with prevention and management of the disease among BAME communities is generally lacking.

It is a cause for concern for Dr Ojo. He said: “Available statistics clearly shows low level of awareness of risk factors, management and strategies for preventing diabetes among people
from African Caribbean Communities.

“Access to healthcare facilities and socio-economic factors largely con- tribute to increasing cases of diabetes in many African countries.

“Cultural beliefs also contribute to low level of awareness in many African settings. Many people in African Caribbean communities in UK, mostly migrants, will hardly go for a health check, are
always working and always believe that you only go to hospitals when you are sick.”

Ojo continued: “I have a student who told me that everyone in his family has diabetes, so there is nothing he can do about it.

“I explained to him that if he changes his diet and lifestyle, he doesn’t have to suffer the same fate.”

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