Volunteers needed for diabetes research
CAIHR director urges Jamaicans participation to improve treatment outcomes
Professor of epidemiology and endocrinology and director of the Caribbean Institute for Health Research Dr Marshall Tulloch Reid says researchers are working on new guidelines for diabetes management and making recommendations for treatment, but there is need for more participants in research.Naphtali Junior

JAMAICANS are being urged to participate in diabetes research, to assist with the further developments in the treatment, care, and management of the condition, which could result in better outcomes for persons living with the metabolic disease.

Professor of epidemiology and endocrinology and director of the Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR) Marshall Tulloch Reid says researchers are trying to be more deliberate, in communicating to participants the purpose and practicality of gathering their data.

"...Another thing that turns them off is when they participate in research studies and they don't know what it means, it has to be a two-way street, they have to get a benefit from participating and they can help us decide what is of priority — that's important too, because sometimes we are thinking one way. The research isn't just something up in the air, it's really something that's supposed to be practical and helpful," the endocrinologist outlined, while speaking on developments in diabetes research this week at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

He was among a panel of guests from the Ministry of Health and the medical profession addressing the issue in observance of diabetes awareness month.

Professor Tulloch Reid advised that researchers are working on new guidelines for diabetes management, making recommendations for treatment, and that it is important to do so within the Jamaican context.

He noted that CAIHR is conducting a significant follow-up study, based on surveys conducted by the Ministry of Health: "The idea is that you can follow people over time and figure out what's driving the risk factors and understanding what happens to people with certain complications over time, and that requires people to volunteer."

Professor Tulloch Reid said the recruitment drive for volunteers has been slowed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, as persons prioritise other life issues. "It's a very tense time for a lot of patients, balancing a lot of things. We know that it is a bit of a hard sell, we know there are a lot of things competing at this time, but it's the only way we can understand what our story is for Jamaica is for people to volunteer and share with us their experiences and participate in these kinds of studies. This is one of the things that will help us to really make a difference when it comes to diabetes, that we can generate the evidence to make the right decisions, the right recommendations, and to guide in a number of ways that we sometimes don't think about at the beginning of a process."

He said the pandemic changed the way research is carried out, making information gathering more difficult, due to the absence of or limited face-to-face interaction with responds, who prefer this kind of interface.

"It meant a lot more telephone interviewing, which is more challenging both to the interviewer and the patient. It has taken a bit of a hit, there are also a lot of other things happening to people, economic issues, working less, earning less [but] I am hoping that as the pandemic has begun to wane and we begin to move back to some sort of normalcy, we might see people being more willing," he said.

At the same time, he said ongoing research has detected a number of gaps in the knowledge database, such as the speed at which diabetes is developing among the population.

"We know how many people have it but we don't know the rate at which it's increasing [and] that's important. We don't know how many of those who have diabetes have specific complications, that has a lot of implications for a number of areas, because diabetes affects almost every organ, so it's important to know how many of these people could have issues with their eyes, their kidneys, then heart, the feet, which may put them at risk for further complication," he explained.

Professor Tulloch Reid further pointed out that there are also some gaps in understanding best practices in diabetes patient care, and how to assist patients with better managing their condition. He said it is important in drawing from other models of diabetes management, to consider the local resources and determine how best to use these to effect as beneficial a change as obtains elsewhere.

Diabetes Awareness Month is observed in November, with the 14th marked as World Diabetes Day.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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