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Researching treatment of diabetes-related depression in Sub-Saharan Africa

19 August 2018

The first network dedicated to advancing research into the treatment of diabetes-related depression in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has launched with a ‘fantastic’ workshop in Nairobi.

The Community Intervention Network for Diabetes and Depression (CoIN-DD) links leading African and UK researchers and specialists in diabetes and related mental health issues, with early career researchers in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Funded by a £25,000 Global Challenges Research Fund Networking Grant from the Academy of Medical Sciences, it is co-led by The Open University’s Professor Cathy Lloyd and Professor David Ndetei of the African Mental Health Research and Training Foundation. The Open University team includes Maureen Mackintosh, Professor of Economics, Dr Cristina Santos, Lecturer in Economics, and Dr Aravinda Guntupalli, Senior Lecturer in Public Health.

People with diabetes are around three times more likely to experience depressive symptoms, often linked to poor management of the condition and fuelling a vicious cycle of deteriorating health.

In SSA – where the incidence of diabetes is soaring – awareness of co-occurring depression is low and it is very rarely identified or addressed.

At the CoIN-DD launch workshop on 7-8 August 2018, four early career researchers presented the findings of their pilot studies carried out in each country among people with diabetes, family members, community nurses and policymakers.

Over the two days further sessions included developing a webinar series, how to conduct a systematic review of the literature, and engaging with policymakers.

“It was a fantastic event. We have all learned so much about the challenges in SSA countries,” said Professor Lloyd, who chaired the workshop.

She said the event was the start of a process whose ultimate goal is to provide research evidence which can be translated into community healthcare practice specific to conditions on the ground in SSA.

“We need to be able to demonstrate interventions which are cost-effective and work within existing health provision, rather than increasing costs,” she said. ‘Talking therapies’ and low-level support from nurses and health workers, and support from family and community, can all make a difference.

“We also have to work out how to engage with policymakers – getting the message across to them is really important.

“This network grant is about building up a team, developing and supporting early career researchers and providing evidence to successfully obtain funding for further research to really nail these issues.”

The first workshop provided feedback and training for the early career researchers who will eventually be presenting their research through a series of webinars.

The culminating event will be a workshop in Milton Keynes where a grant proposal for a community-based project to address ways of tackling co-morbid diabetes and depression in SSA will be finalised.

This project will bring together all the stakeholders to develop interventions for diabetes-related depression that can be implemented at local level.

Professor Lloyd also expects to see the network expand. “The way we are working as a network group is so fruitful, I am sure other countries will be interested in joining us in the future.”

Photo by steve wafula on Unsplash

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