Thursday, October 27, 2016

Reflections from a Summer High School Student Intern

 Hello everyone, my name is Aissata Sall and I come from a large family that has been impacted by diabetes through several generations. Diabetes has been very common on my mother’s side of the family. Let me first start by saying my family is from Guinea, which is located in Africa. My parents and three out of six of their children were born in Guinea. The three other children, which include my twin sister, my youngest sibling, and me, were born in the United States. I must say from a young age I was exposed to the complications of diabetes and what it can lead to since both my aunt and grandmother in Guinea died from type 2 diabetes. During the time when my grandmother was dealing with diabetes I wasn’t around to hear or see exactly what happened to her but I do know that she was obese and didn’t have a healthy diet nor did she exercise. My aunt died about six years ago in her mid-40s leaving behind five children who are now under the care of my mom. Months before her death she had to get her leg amputated three times which caused unbearable pain due to lack of antibiotics and pain medication. During this time my mother was sending as much money as she could so my aunt could keep her spot at the hospital and receive the best care available but that wasn’t enough and she died fairly quickly. Still to this day I believe that if my aunt and grandmother were here in the United States they would have lived a much longer life with less pain because of the level of care and treatment that’s available to patients here. Now knowing what we know about diabetes my mother has taken action to protect herself by eating less sugary food and drinks, getting frequent checkups and maintaining a healthy diet. My mother has also instructed all her children on the importance of keeping your body in the best shape possible and eating well to keep diabetes away.




          Diabetes is a disease in which your body “does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar, or glucose),” this means that when you have diabetes there’s too much sugar in your blood (Global Report on Diabetes, 2016,  p. 2).  The most common types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.  A major difference between the two is that Type 1 diabetes is most common in children. Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include excessive urination, thirst, constant hunger, weight loss, vision change and fatigue. Type 2 diabetes is most common in adults. Type 2 diabetes is largely the result of excess body weight and lack of physical activity; however, its symptoms are similar to those of Type 1 diabetes. There are steps you can take to prevent or delay diabetes from happening to you. Recommendations include the following: achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, be physically active at least 30 minutes a day, have a healthy dietavoid sugar and saturated fats, and avoid tobacco use. If you aren’t following these steps you can be faced with some serious consequences, like developing damage in your heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerve cells.


        One good way of keeping track of your diabetes is by taking the glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) test which shows you how well your diabetes is being controlled. The HbA1c test does this by providing an average of what your blood sugar is over a time period of 2-3 months (“Hemoglobin A1c Testing for Diabetes,”  2016). If your blood sugar level is too high there are steps that need to be taken by you, the patient, and your doctor. This test is very important because it helps monitor your health and so it should be available in every country for every patient with or at risk for diabetes.

            Globally, it’s been estimated that 422 million adults were living with diabetes in 2014, compared to 108 million in 1980 (Global Report on Diabetes, 2016,  p. 2). There has been a rapid increase in the number of people living with diabetes. This is worrisome because these numbers are getting larger and we need to find a solution to minimize this rate . In countries like the United States and Guinea where diabetes is significant there were some troubling results about the number of deaths caused by diabetes. For instance, with a population of 322,000,000 in the United States the percentage of diabetes deaths every year was 3%. And in Guinea with a population size of 12,609,000 the percentage of death due to diabetes was 2% ( “WHO Fact Sheet”. 2016. ). In Sub-Saharan Africa 79% of people with diabetes die before the age of 60 and in America 38% of people die before the age of 60. This shows that people in America live longer with diabetes and they develop diabetes later on in life while in Africa people develop diabetes earlier and die much faster (“IDF Diabetes Atlas” 2015.).

The HbA1c test makes diabetes care better because it keeps patients up to date with their blood sugar level so people will be able to make the appropriate lifestyle changes. Without the HbA1c test available many people would be clueless on how to manage their health. In Africa there's limited access to the HbA1c test which means not everyone is getting information to control their diabetes. According to a scientific study from 2014 “poor control of blood glucose is common in patients with type 2 diabetes in Cameroon and Guinea. Limited access to the HbA1c test, appears to be a key factor associated with poor glycemic control in Guinea” (Camara et al., p. 1). However, in the United States all treatment is easier to get for most diabetic patients because many primary care practices have treatment available (“U.S. WHO Country Profile,” 2016). The American Diabetes mellitus Association guidelines requires that HbA1c tests be provided to patients in their primary care practice (Richard et al., P.2, 2015).

Hopefully many can see that it’s unfair that people in Africa aren’t getting the HbA1c test which is resulting in a faster death rate for diabetes patients and more complications like the amputations that my aunt went through. It would be marvelous to see more HbA1c tests provided to patients in primary care facilities in African countries like Guinea so that people can live longer and healthier lives. One thing that might help make this happen is if governments branched out and made connections to help promote more HbA1c tests for countries in need. Americans should care about the health of diabetes patients in Guinea because more deaths occurring there increases the human death rate globally. A death in Guinea is just as tragic as a death in America. This is why it’s very important to care about what’s going on worldwide. I believe all governments should care about this matter because we want the best for our people; meaning longer lives, healthier bodies, and more awareness. This is why campaigns should be held to effectively spread the message of the importance of the HbA1c test. It’s important for everyone with diabetes or at risk for the disease to know how they can receive help and protect themselves.

Thank you for reading my blog post. I hope you learned a lot about diabetes and its treatment. We are stronger together than apart. Every human counts, so let’s always aim to expand our knowledge and fight diabetes. Please consider donating to the World Diabetes Foundation, an organization committed to providing care globally and in sub-Saharan Africa. Visit their website at  for more information.




Written By: Aissata Sall

Works Cited

Camara, Alioune, et al., "Poor glycemic control in type 2 diabetes in the South of the Sahara: the issue of limited access to an HbA1c test.” Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 2015

"Global Report On Diabetes." World Health Organization. 2016. Web. 28 July 2016. <>.

“Guinea-Diabetes Profile” World Health Organization., n.d. Web.

"Hemoglobin A1c Testing for Diabetes." WebMD. Web. 01 Aug. 2016. <>.

"IDF Diabetes Atlas - 7th Edition." IDF Diabetes Atlas. 2015. Web. 01 Aug. 2016. <>.

Richard, Patrick, et al., “Quality and Cost of Diabetes Mellitus Care in Community Health Centers in the United States.” PLOS ONE PLoS ONE, 2014

"United States Of America-Diabetes Profile" World Health Organization., n.d. Web. <>.

"WHO Diabetes Fact Sheet." World Health Organization. 2016. Web. 01 Aug. 2016. <>.


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