Only 47% of people with diabetes in Nigeria turn to ‘doctors’ to manage disease

New research from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) reveals that only 47 per cent of people living with diabetes in Nigeria find their healthcare practitioner to be the most useful source of information to help manage their condition. This means people are turning elsewhere to receive education, with the figures – released ahead of World Diabetes Day (WDD) on Monday November 14 – showing people in Nigeria using a number of other sources, with one in five (21 per cent) turning to Google for diabetes education. A worrying statistic given IDF research found that one in five Google searches for terms related to diabetes reveal inaccurate information about the condition and how to manage its complications.

The research also shows that nearly one in three (30 per cent) people with diabetes in Nigeria have seen their time spent with a healthcare provider decrease over the past three years. For over 95 per cent of the time, people living with diabetes are looking after themselves. It is therefore critical that they have access to up-to-date and reliable information to support their self-care and prevent diabetes-related complications. When diabetes is not well managed, the risk of serious health complications increases. These include heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness and lower-limb amputation.

Sources outside of a healthcare provider can be rife with misinformation. Separate research carried out by IDF earlier this year found that searches for terms including ‘diabetes’, ‘how to manage diabetes’ and ‘diabetes symptoms’ featured results and answers to questions from non-medical sources including Wikipedia, Amazon and Facty – the last of which showed an article on home remedies for diabetes.

Out of 30 search results (the first results page for each search term), six links directed users to unverified information. In one case, for the search term ‘diabetes’, users were displayed an advert from an organisation that aims to ‘wean people living with diabetes from insulin.’ Without an uninterrupted supply of insulin, type 1 diabetes is a death sentence.

This ties in with additional figures from the research, revealing that over one in five (22 per cent) people living with diabetes in Nigeria found it hard to understand the details of their condition and almost one in three (31 per cent) found it difficult to remain positive in relation to their diabetes.

An advocate living with type 2 diabetes from Nigeria and member of the IDF Blue Circle Voices network, Bernard Enyia, said: “During the COVID-19 lock-down the prices of commodities skyrocketed. I witnessed severe numbness, blurred vision and dental issues that left me today with incomplete dentition. My story is not different with many others living with diabetes with a near absence of support to our support groups.

“There is poor access to diabetes education because the government have not paid serious attention to diabetes issues, with no national response programme.”

IDF’s research also revealed that many doctors and nurses in Nigeria felt they lacked the resources to pass on to their patients – with over one in three (35 per cent) indicating they did not have access to printed or digital education tools and materials.

IDF is committed to facilitating learning opportunities for all people involved in diabetes care. Free interactive courses are available to help people with diabetes and their carers to understand and manage the condition. For healthcare professionals, the IDF School of Diabetes offers a selection of free and premium online courses to help them keep up-to-date with various aspects of diabetes management and treatment.

World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by IDF and the World Health Organisation in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations Day in 2006 with the passage of United Nation Resolution 61/225. It is marked every year on November 14, the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin along with Charles Best in 1922. AstraZeneca, Gan & Lee, Lilly Diabetes, Merck, MSD, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Viatris support the World Diabetes Day 2022 campaign.