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Online awareness workshop on diabetes, under the title “Nurses make a difference”

Marking the World Diabetes Day, and in the context of learning further of the global updates related to this subject, the Lebanese Society for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Lipids (LSEDL), the Chronic Care Center, and the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk held an online awareness workshop on diabetes, under the title “Nurses make a difference.”

The workshop dealt with the importance of prevention and treatment, and shed light on the role of nurses in guiding the patients on their diabetes journey. From this standpoint, Novo Nordisk is keen on “changing diabetes” by increasing awareness to succeed in reducing the spread of the disease. The company thus works hand-in-hand with all stakeholders to attain this goal, according to the Director General of Novo Nordisk, Myriam Mezher.

The workshop was opened by LSEDL President, Dr. Paola Atallah, who stressed the importance of cooperation between all sectors concerned with the prevention of diabetes, and underscored the need for concerted efforts to spread awareness among people on the importance of early detection and the best means for the patient, his family and his surrounding to deal with this disease.

She indicated that more than 400 million diabetics exist around the world, uttering regret over the rapidly increasing figures, which are expected to reach 600 million by the year 2045. Dr. Atallah explained that Africa and the Middle East have the biggest number of diabetics, for various reasons, most notably obesity and lack of mobility, in addition to them being largely populated areas.

Founder and President of the Chronic Care Center which treats Children with Type I Diabetes and Thalassemia, Mouna Haraoui, stressed that nurses do, indeed, make a difference. A diabetic patient needs great support in order to understand and accept his condition, and deal with it from a positive perspective. What nurses do is educate patients and their families on the disease and run awareness campaigns to introduce students at schools and universities to diabetes and its implications, with the aim of focusing on the importance of prevention to avoid complications. Haraoui saluted all health sector workers, especially Lebanese and international nurses who are putting their lives at risk amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at the opening session, Dr. Carol Saadeh Riachi stressed that “a nurse is someone strong enough to withstand the difficulties of the profession, and cautious enough to embrace and care for any person with diabetes. Nurses also have excellent learning abilities which contribute to their good and effective communication with people with diabetes.”

Medical Director at the Chronic Care Center, Dr. Therese Abou Nasr, in turn explained the Center’s approach to diabetic patients in light of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly since several adjustments were required to maintain the safety of both the patients and the Center’s staff. She stressed that the focus was initially on delivering the medicine to patients to prevent any interruptions in medications intake. It then evolved into a run of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) tests. The center also adopted an online follow-up policy and communicated with patients by phone. 

Dr. Rita Medlej, a specialist in diabetes and endocrinology, saluted the nurses who care for patients with diabetes, stressing that the role of multidisciplinary nursing teams was paramount in caring for diabetics.

Dr. Medlej also advised diabetics on the necessity of monitoring and testing their diabetes levels regularly, to keep the disease under control and avoid complications.

In turn, the Center’s Diabetes Nurse Educator, Colette Hayek Bitar, focused on the nursing staff’s distinctive role in educating the patients and their families, enabling them to acquire the skills necessary to cope with their health condition, and involving them in the decision-making process pertinent to the plan put in place to alleviate their diabetes effects.

“Hence the importance of listening to the nurses and allowing them a role in decision-making and policy development and implementation,” added Mirna Doumit, Head of the Nurses’ Syndicate in Lebanon.

The Chronic Care Center’s Nutritionist, Joanna Najjar, touched on the eating patterns that ought to be followed by diabetics in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying: “Home quarantine has had a major impact on the eating behaviors and physical activity of many, both adults and children. It affected the quantity and quality of food, inflicting a change on people’s weight averages.”

Tackling misconceptions regarding the diet of diabetics, Najjar underscored the importance of a balanced diet, on the one hand, and maintaining physical activity on the other hand, affirming that consuming healthy and nutritious foods and steering clear of processed foods are key for an improved immune system.

Chief of Infectious Diseases Division at St. George University Hospital, Dr. Claude Afif, explained that diabetics in general are not more susceptible than others to COVID-19, but are indeed more likely than others to develop serious diseases or complications, especially type II diabetes patients.

Pertaining to the contribution of students’ return to schools to the increase in coronavirus infection cases among diabetics, Dr. Afif indicated that studies on this topic are still inconclusive, but the decision to return [to school] must be individual.

The workshop included a testimony by the representative of Young Leaders in Diabetes at the International Diabetes Federation, Samar Kheir, who emphasized the patients’ need to adhere to the necessary preventive measures and follow quarantine instructions, noting that the latter has contributed to her sense of self-discovery and her understanding of the effects of diabetes on her outlook on life in general. 

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