Diabetes UK is working with NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to encourage people living with diabetes to better manage the condition and improve their long-term health.
The Birmingham and Solihull Community Champions Programme is recruiting volunteers to work in their local communities to raise awareness of diabetes. They will also try to improve the referral, uptake and completion rates of diabetes education courses in the area.
Education courses explain what diabetes is and what it means for people’s health now and in the future, alongside providing information on healthy eating and how to incorporate more physical activity into daily life.
The trained Community Champions will focus on engaging with people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities to raise awareness of the seriousness of the condition. People from BAME communities are two to four times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Two fifths of the Birmingham population and one in ten people in Solihull are from BAME background.
There are more than 83,000 people diagnosed with diabetes in the Birmingham and Solihull area. This is a prevalence of 8.2 per cent which is significantly above the UK average of 6.8 per cent. Around 90 per cent of these have Type 2.
Diabetes is a serious condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly. It can lead to sight loss, amputation, stroke and kidney failure if not managed well.
People might get Type 2 diabetes because of their family history, age and ethnic background puts them at increased risk. They are also more likely to get Type 2 diabetes if they are overweight. It starts gradually, usually later in life, and it can be years before they realise they have it. Type 2 diabetes is treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity. In addition, tablets and insulin can be required.
Recently trained community champion Chris Kendall said: “As a Community Champion I am excited about reaching out to the community to raise awareness of Type 2 diabetes and the lifestyle approaches you can make to manage the condition. Alongside my passion for nutrition and fitness I am hoping that I can educate and empower people to choose healthier lifestyles.”
Dr Richard Mendelsohn, a local GP and Chief Medical Officer at NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG said: “We are very fortunate to have such diverse communities Birmingham and Solihull; it is really important that we are always looking at different ways of tackling the health inequalities that exist.
“That is why it is great to collaborate on an innovative project like this; the community champions will reach out to people in their own communities, to educate and empower them to better manage their diabetes, and avoid some of the more serious complications.
“We are very hopeful that this will mean healthier futures for lots of local people and are excited about the impact that the community champions will have.”
Jasmin Chowdhury, Diabetes UK Partnerships Delivery Manager, said: “Our Community Champions programme has been an incredible success because it is built on collaboration. As much as we teach our Champions about tackling diabetes, they educate us about the differences in diet, health habits and the nuances of their communities.
“Diversity in the UK is increasingly complex. We have so many different countries of birth, languages, backgrounds, histories and cultures, that there can never be a ‘one size fits all’ solution. This is why our Champions programme has such a vital role to play.
“As trusted members of their communities, Champions are acting as ambassadors for Diabetes UK, reaching people who may not realise they could be at risk or may not be aware of the programmes and support that is available.”
For more information visit: www.diabetes.org.uk/get_involved/volunteer/community-champions