Awareness on type 2 diabetes in UK’s South Asian community encouraged in new report


Better education on the risks of type 2 diabetes is needed according to the South Asian Health Foundation (SAHF) as their newly published report highlighted misunderstandings about the condition in the South Asian community.

The recently published report showed that initial assumptions and fears about the complex condition can be challenged by tailored community engagement events. The report includes findings following events featuring debate and a short film on the risk factors of type 2 diabetes - Meethi Baatein (Sweet Talk). In particular attendees at events demonstrated an increase in their agreement that people of South Asian origin are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes by 10.3%.

Dr Kiran Patel Consultant Cardiologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer, NHS England Area Team Medical Director and Chair of Trustees, SAHF said:

“The shift in attitude and understanding of diabetes brought about by this community engagement programme is encouraging, it has made a difference to the lives of South Asians living with diabetes, as well as their families who attended the meetings. We have also seen an increased willingness towards engaging with healthcare professionals about treatment options, which is important as early engagement leads to long-term better outcomes.”

Drawing on lessons learned from the community education events organised by SAHF, the report South Asian community health education and empowerment in diabetes identified evidence of the beginning of a shift in attitude towards diabetes. In addition to a general increase in levels of awareness of the risks of diabetes and its complications, SAHF event staff experienced a new and real willingness to share experiences and concerns beyond immediate family.

Type 2 diabetes is a key health risk for people of South Asian origin:

  • They are between three and six times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes when compared to white Europeans
  • An estimated 388,000 people of South Asian origin have type 2 diabetes, which can lead to further complications such as heart disease
  • People of South Asian origin tend to develop diabetes at an earlier age, with an associated increase in the risk of disease-related complications
  • Traditional South Asian cultural factors can also impact the management of diabetes

Professor Wasim Hanif, Consultant Physician in Diabetes and Endocrinology, and Chair Diabetes Working Group, SAHF added:

“Our report sets out a number of recommendations that will help transform the lives of people living with diabetes and their close families. We saw that many South Asian communities embraced the idea of exercise classes, and there is considerable scope to deliver rapid lifestyle and dietary changes through simple messaging on easy changes that is visually expressed. The changing attitudes suggest that now is the time for healthcare commissioners, HCPs and the Third Sector to focus efforts on delivering effective interventions.”

Welcoming the report, Professor Jonathan Valabhji, National Clinical Director for Obesity and Diabetes at NHS England, said:

"This excellent initiative provides many important insights in to how South Asian communities can be further empowered to reduce their particularly high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It also empowers those that already have diabetes to improve their self-management and so reduce their risk of developing the complications of diabetes."

Targeting all the main cultures across the South Asian community, some 11 events were hosted by SAHF and local organisations in community centres, temples and GP practices, from Glasgow down London. The events aimed to address issues of awareness and understanding of diabetes across the ‘at risk’ populations in South Asian communities in the UK and were funded and supported by Novo Nordisk

Michael Bonar