Supporting Diabetic Patient Health Literacy With User-friendly Educational Visual Aids


In South Africa, 7% of adults aged 21 to 79 — that’s about 3.85 million people — have diabetes. I was asked to re-design and combine these different elements into something that could easily fit a two-sided A4 sheet, and could be used by the Diabetic Educator at the practice to collect data from patients.

As summarised in the article linked above, here are some of the issues diabetes brings in South Africa:

  • Lives have become more sedentary and work environments are not conducive to physical activity. In South Africa in particular, patients often quote crime, road safety concerns and poorly maintained parks and recreational areas as reasons for not exercising outdoors.
  • Diabetes is a complex condition which causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. There are many people in the population with blood sugar levels above what is considered to be the ‘normal range’, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having diabetes. Their risks of developing full-blown diabetes are therefore greatly increased — and this is where diabetes gets its nickname from — “the silent killer.”
  • It’s incredibly important for diabetes to be diagnosed as early as possible because it gets progressively worse if left untreated. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation. Early intervention cam prevent and/or reduce the risk of all these complications.
  • Low levels of literacy, a lack of funding, resources and maladministration often result in poor treatment quality. Drug shortages are common in the public sector. Insulin is expensive, and in South Africa, many people don’t have private medical aid.

In South Africa, along with many other countries — self-management education is limited and the role of diabetic nurse educators is underrated and not utilised to its full potential. Secondly, healthcare facilities are in dire need of improvement and medical practitioners often lack the resources they need to provide the correct assessments and treatment.

In the words of Dr. G. Podgorski, a Physician (with special interest in the management of diabetes) in Port Elizabeth, South Africa:

“The complexities of the epidemic require a multi-pronged response.”

Dr. G. Podgorski