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Support Groups Key to Managing Diabetes


Picture of Patrick Muchiri outside

Patrick Muchiri, now Deputy Chair of the Wamagana Diabetes Support Group in Nyeri County, Kenya


Three years back, Patrick Muchiri was receiving guests in his bed. He could not sit; neither could he talk for more than ten minutes. 


“I knew I was on my death bed,” he narrates. The 69-year-old had been suffering from diabetes for 15 years and had given up hope for quality life. “I was constantly tired and always sickly. I spent most of my days in bed,” he adds.


It was at this point in time that his best friend, Bishop Kariuki, asked him to join the Wamagana Diabetes Support Group. “The group had been formed in 2006. But it was not active. When the Bishop asked me to join, I was skeptic,” says Patrick. However, Bishop Kariuki managed to convince Patrick to join the Support Group. The first meeting was done in Patrick’s home, due to his inability to get out of bed.


“I was informed that the group had been revived through the 'Effective Management and Control of Diabetes and Childhood Asthma in Kenya' project. At first, I did not expect it to be any different from before,” admits Patrick. However, as he would soon realise, the Support Group had in fact changed for the better.


“I was impressed by the knowledge the members had on management and control of diabetes. They even helped me manage my own diabetes and soon, I was out of bed!” he adds. Patrick become more active in the group and currently serves as the Deputy Chair. “I can work, I am healthy, and I honestly do not remember the last time I was bed ridden. The information we have received through the project saved my life. And I am not the only one who can attest to this,” states a happy Patrick. The Wamagana Diabetes Support Group has since grown: “We are currently 150 members,” confirms Patrick.


To Patrick, the Support Group has improved the lives of many residents of Nyeri County. “We have members who would take paracetamol thinking it would cure their diabetes. It is sad that each one of us had to go through a lot of pain before we were enlightened. Regardless, I appreciate the efforts of the project, and of GSK, in equipping us with the right knowledge on management and control of diabetes,” he adds.


Many of the members of the support group were recruited by Community Health Workers (CHWs), also trained through the project. “The CHWs have worked hard in ensuring that people within the region know about the support group, and are enlightened on proper management and control of diabetes,” adds Patrick.


The group not only offers emotional support to members, but also offers medication for those who cannot afford it. “We have lobbied with well-wishers and sometimes get medication for our members, especially those who cannot afford the drugs,” asserts Patrick.


The 'Effective Management and Control of Diabetes and Childhood Asthma in Kenya' Project seeks to strengthen the capacity of the health system to ensure quality management of NCDs, in particular diabetes and childhood asthma, through training of health workers, community-based disease surveillance, monitoring, evaluation and advocacy to influence policy and action. Currently, through the project, 1,500 CHWs have been trained on effective management and control of both diabetes and asthma in four counties in Kenya: Nyeri, Kilifi, Kakamega, and Nairobi. Additionally, 2,500 health workers have also been trained on the same. The project is implemented by Amref Health Africa and the different county Ministries of Health with funding from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).


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Story by Michelle Dibo - Communications, Amref Institute of Capacity Development, Nairobi