2017 was an exciting year for Lions Clubs International. We celebrated our centennial year of service and entered into a new century by adding four new global causes to our priority areas of focus. To mark our centennial, we appealed to Lions across the world to fight against the growing diabetes epidemic, and the Lions have answered our call without hesitation.
Our vision for our new diabetes program is to reduce the prevalence of diabetes and improve the quality of life for those diagnosed. To do this, we aim to educate Lions and their communities about diabetes and prediabetes, develop community environments that inspire and support healthy lifestyles, increase access to diabetes care, medication and diagnostic equipment, and strengthen coordination and support in the implementation of national diabetes policies and plans.
To accomplish this, Lions Clubs International Foundation has revised and enhanced its diabetes grant opportunities to support Lions-led projects that organize diabetes camps, renovate infrastructure, build capacity among health care personnel, and organize screening events. Lions enthusiastically responded with projects addressing a range of diabetes activities.
Type 1 Diabetes
The Lions of Austria hosted a diabetes camp for Type 1 diabetic youth in Gratz this past summer. Thirty-two youth participated in the one-week camp, which taught them how to independently manage their diabetes by counting carbohydrates, calculating insulin doses, and handling insulin pumps and injections. Thomas, a participant in the camp, told the Lions, “I am grateful that I could participate at the diabetes camp. I learned from the doctors how to handle my daily food and measure and calculate how much insulin I need myself. In addition, I learned how to prepare for sports like swimming and soccer. Furthermore, I was able to make new friends with the same condition. With them, I can talk about diabetes and I don’t feel so alone with my problems anymore.”
Type 2 Diabetes—and Diabetic Retinopathy
While the Lions of Austria tackle Type 1 diabetes, the Lions of Uganda are working to address complications from Type 2 diabetes, primarily diabetic retinopathy. With the support of an LCIF SightFirst grant, the Lions of Uganda are implementing Uganda’s first diabetic retinopathy screening and treatment program, in which they are also screening at-risk individuals for diabetes. The Lions are working with the Mbarara University and Regional Hospital Eye Centre to strengthen the hospital’s capacity to diagnose and treat individuals with diabetic retinopathy.
The project will increase the human resources of southwestern Uganda by providing vitreoretinal training for one ophthalmologist and training 16 new ophthalmic nurses and five new ophthalmic clinical officers. By the end of the three-year project, 100,000 individuals will have been screened for diabetes, 10,000 diabetics will have been screened for diabetic retinopathy, and more than 800 patients with diabetic retinopathy will have received treatment at the newly equipped eye unit.
The Lions of Uganda capitalized on the national World Sight Day activities in September in Lyantonde to officially launch their project. In attendance was the Ugandan Minister for Primary Health Care who was dismayed by the fact that Lyantonde lacks an ophthalmologist to provide ophthalmic care, but she applauded the Lions for their commitment to serving those in need of vision and diabetes care in the district through their project. The launch was followed by a week of free eye screening at Lyantonde Hospital where hundreds of patients received surgery.
Visit lcif.org/BE100 to learn how Campaign 100 will lead the charge to reduce the prevalence of diabetes and improve the quality of life for those diagnosed, and continue to support reduction of avoidable blindness and visual impairment around the world.
Karen Kilberg is a regional program specialist for global health initiatives in Lions Clubs International Foundation.