Global pharmaceutical giant Sanofi is giving hope to diabetic patients as it pursues a programme to cut leg amputations in Ghana and the rest of the continent.

The Diabetes Africa Foot Initiative (DAFI) was launched in 2012 in partnership with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the IDF Africa Region, in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg, Université Senghor, Université Numérique Francophone Mondiale (UNFM).

“The object is to better prevent and diagnose at an early stage the complication brought on by diabetes in order to start the insulin to avoid the progression of the complication,” Philippe Brun, Medical Director for Sanofi Africa has told Joy News.

“You need the physician or the healthcare professional to diagnose [the disease] at an early stage to help the patient get treatment.

Treatment is often insulin “but of course it can be antibiotics or surgical procedures in order to clean the foot complications. So it’s not only training for the physician but also training for nurses. And of course to educate the patient because the patient must be able to take care of their foot. The patient is key in the treatment of diabetes,” Philippe Brun said.

Tackling diabetes

The African region has the fastest growth of diabetes, which will double in the next 20 years, the highest rate of undiagnosed diabetes and the highest mortality rate due to diabetes. That’s according to the DAFI.

“The main problems are the late diagnosis, the severe complications due to diabetes, the high mortality rate and the poor quality of life of people with diabetes. The diabetic foot is a complication of diabetes that carries a high morbidity and mortality rate in Africa, and is increasing as the burden of diabetes continues to rise. Amputations remain high, despite intensive training of health workers in traditional preventive methods. DAFI aims to address the lack of a common, regionally accepted, sustainable and comprehensive approach for diabetic foot care in the region,” DAFI stated on its website.

DAFI is a two-phase initiative that has been implemented in ten countries: Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.

The first phase (October 2012-October 2013) developed and implemented a Risk Stratification and Intervention Tool and its associated protocol in ten diabetes centres in the selected countries. Health workers from these institutions will be trained on diabetes foot care through e-diabetes in collaboration with UNFM and a few of them will follow a more specialized training developed by the University of Johannesburg and Université Senghor to be certified as Diabetes Foot Care Assistants. In collaboration with health authorities and local communities, IDF member associations will start information activities for people with diabetes.

In the second phase of the initiative (36 months), the ten participating centres are expected to become accredited reference centres to train peripheral centres about diabetes foot care and roll-out the programme in the selected countries. The impact of the risk stratification and intervention tool will be measured. Community activities led by IDF member associations will be strengthened in collaboration with health authorities.