Supporting and managing diabetes among the South Asian diaspora

How the pharmacy profession can play a huge role in providing effective support and care

Diabetes and the population

Type 2 diabetes is a preventable long-term condition which is currently highly prevalent and steadily increasing.

Research has shown that some ethnicities are at higher risk for developing the condition. South Asian people make up the second largest ethnic group in the UK, after the white population, and are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in comparison. With the condition being up to six times more common in this ethnic group, it is a growing problem in the community.

“It is important that culturally appropriate advice is provided to those of South Asian origin”

The average age of onset in this group is 25, as opposed to 40 in the White population. There are a number of health complications related to diabetes, which include cardiovascular risk and mental health. It is therefore important that culturally appropriate advice is provided to those of South Asian origin, including advice about fasting, diet and exercise.

What can pharmacists do to help?

Pharmacists can play a huge role in supporting those with diabetes, including those who are fasting, by providing information on how to fast safely.

“Religious and cultural beliefs, such as fasting, can have a significant impact on health conditions”

The innovative Diabetes and Fasting Toolkit endorsed by the RPS in partnership with Lloyds Pharmacy, South Asian Health Foundation and the Muslim Council of Britain, is a valuable resource to support pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals, in managing diabetes whilst fasting during Ramadan. Religious and cultural beliefs, such as fasting, can have a significant impact on pre-existing health conditions. Supporting patients with the management of their condition will enable them to make informed decisions about fasting, and how to fast safely. This resource can be extended for use not just to those with diabetes, but to anyone who may be fasting during Ramadan, other religious fasts or fasting for health reasons.

South Asian people are generally under-represented in clinical trial programmes. Current limitations in the evidence base with the UK South Asian population with type 2 diabetes should be considered when making management and therapy decisions.

Ongoing work with the RPS

RPS England, as part of its national campaign for diabetes, is currently engaged in a piece of work with various health leaders and organisations, to explore how and where pharmacists and their teams can support people with diabetes.

This includes:

  • Supporting the prevention and early detection of type 2 diabetes
  • Ensuring people with diabetes get the best use from their medicine
  • Promoting integrated working across the NHS and in close partnership with other healthcare professionals
  • Demonstrating how pharmacists and their teams can support the delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan
  • Sharing best practice examples
  • Showcasing a new resource tool which can be used by pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to support people with diabetes who fast during Ramadan, to fast safely.

Professor Mahendra Patel will be talking about this topic at our Science and Research Summit on 8 February. Book now to find out more.

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