UP’S real-world diabetes research is reaching out to the community, one family at a time – Daily Maverick
Across the country, the management of the estimated 4.6 million people with diabetes, mostly type 2 – that is, caused by lifestyle rather than genetics – is below par, which is why a University of Pretoria (UP) research project is breaking new ground by striking at the heart of the problem…….
Across the country, the management of the estimated 4.6 million people with diabetes, mostly type 2 – that is, caused by lifestyle rather than genetics – is below par, which is why a University of Pretoria (UP) research project is breaking new ground by striking at the heart of the problem.
Funded by the Lilly Global Health Partnership, the Tshwane Insulin Project (TIP) is a methodical hands-on approach that targets people living with type 2 diabetes where they are first encountered – in the primary health care system.
The aim of the project is not about creating highfalutin theory but about helping patients. TIP’s Project Manager, Dr Patrick Ngassa Piotie, said: “The research is described as from ‘bench to the patient’s bedside’. The goal is not to produce a research report. We want to see our research making a difference in the communities and the patients benefiting. That’s why we call it translational research, where we translate scientific knowledge into practical solutions that impact the way people are doing things.”
Sister Sophie Phiri hands a patient the Tshwane Insulin Project pack, which includes a glucose metre, test strips and a diabetes education booklet.
Medical doctor Ngassa Piotie is more than just TIP’s Project Manager. Together with Prof Paul Rheeder of UP’s Department of Internal Medicine, he put together the five-phase proposal. The project started in 2019 and the first three phases formed the backbone of Dr Ngassa Piotie’s pending PhD in Public Health. The objective of the project is to support people with type 2 diabetes as they transition from oral drugs to insulin because of the natural progression of their condition.
Although putting patients on insulin is not the first step of managing type 2 diabetes, it can be an integral part of it.
The project started with identifying the barriers and opportunities for putting patients on insulin. It also reviewed the legal and policy framework for insulin use in primary care; and then went onto a pilot study to test a new model of care to facilitate the initiation and adjustment of insulin. They piloted the intervention at 10 facilities and put 22 patients on insulin. Now during phase four, the model is being implemented in various regions in the Tshwane area.
Dr Ngassa Piotie emphasised the real-life challenges of the research. “It’s not like researchers sitting in a laboratory, doing their thing with a microscope in a controlled environment.
“Here we are basically working with the nurse and the doctor in the facilities. If they’re in a bad mood, we are affected. That’s the challenge in this programme, but it’s also a benefit because the goal is that whatever …….