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Foot doctors could save lives in Central Asia

Published on 01 April 2018 02:00 PM

Foot doctors could be saving lives in one of Central Asia’s poorest countries, thanks to an innovative new health programme from Age International.

Age International's Diabetic Foot programme in Kyrgyzstan aims to improve diagnosis and treatment of diabetic foot - a serious complication of diabetes which can lead to amputation. 

The programme also aims to use community-based self-help groups to educate people about diabetes and help them to manage their condition.

Diabetes is a growing threat in Kyrgyzstan

Tatiana checks her companions blood sugar level during a programme from 2016

A woman with diabetes checks her friend's blood pressure in Kyrgyzstan

Diabetes is a growing threat to the population of Kyrgyzstan; by 2045 it is estimated that more than 388,000 people in the country will have the condition. Currently, 41% of cases go undiagnosed due to poor screening and lack of awareness.

If left untreated and uncontrolled, diabetes leads to heart attacks, kidney failure, loss of sight and amputations. It kills millions annually.  

Current treatment is inadequate 

Those who do get a diagnosis face numerous challenges when it comes to treatment.

Hannah Ross, Programme Development Officer for Age International, explains: 'Diabetes medication should be free, but supply doesn’t meet demand. People are forced to top up their medication at their own expense; many simply can’t afford to and go without.'

As a result, problems like diabetic foot are common - over one thousand Kyrgyz people were diagnosed with diabetic foot in 2016. However, there are currently no specialist podiatrists in the country to treat the condition. 

New podiatry rooms will tackle diabetic foot

Age International is training podiatrists on diabetes foot and stationing them in fully equipped ‘podiatry rooms’ in the equivalent of GP surgeries across the country - so that patients receive thorough check-ups and early treatment.

The charity will establish new multidisciplinary medical teams – made up of podiatrists, surgeons, orthopaedists, and endocrinologists - to provide more holistic, joined-up care.

Age International will also update training guidelines and clinical protocols, and train sixty nurses.

Community support groups offer 'new approach' to diabetes care

A diabetes self-help group in Kyrgyzstan

A diabetes group meets in a member's kitchen kitchen

'Using community support groups to provide diabetes care is a new approach,' Ross says about plans to create 'diabetes clubs'.

These local community groups of diabetics will be a support for each other - but they will also raise awareness about diabetes and run education campaigns.

Non-communicable diseases a strategic priority for Age International

'Health is a key strategic priority for Age International and this project allows us to display our expertise in the area of non-communicable diseases,' says Tony Hopkins, who is Head of Programmes at Age International.

The ‘diabetes foot’ programme is designed in collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s Chief Endocrinologist and will run for three years, from April 2018.

The programme is being run thanks to support from the World Diabetes Foundation - who have been collaborating with Age International since 2009. 

If successful, Age International hopes that the government of Kyrgyzstan will consider adopting this approach in other areas of the country. 

Fast facts 

  1. The Kyrgyzstan government estimates that over 90% of people suffering from type 2 diabetes are over 60
  2. By 2045 it is estimated that more than 388,000 people in the country will have the condition.
  3. 41% of cases go undiagnosed in Kyrgyzstan due to poor screening and lack of awareness

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Thanks to World Diabetes Foundation

With thanks to the World Diabetes Foundation. Without their support, this work would not be possible.


Last updated: Aug 30 2018

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