Written by: Juin Ancha (CARE Philippines)
November 14 — World Diabetes Day. Various health organizations and groups all over the country urge the Filipino community to take active measures to prevent this life-threatening illness. However, simple lifestyle and dietary changes may not be enough to comprehensively address diabetes, especially within the context of vulnerable populations. Pervasive gender norms and roles are also factors that influence the health and well-being outcomes of Filipino women and men. As we commemorate World Diabetes Day, we encourage the public to use an intersectional lens to understand diabetes.
Diabetes at a glance
Diabetes is a worldwide epidemic, and the Philippines is not exempt. According to the International Diabetes Federation, of the 64 million adults in the country, 4 million have diabetes. However, even with these high numbers, there could be more undocumented cases, specifically in low-income, rural, and armed-conflict-affected areas. Lack of health facilities in far-flung communities, lack of access to diabetes information, and lack of access to basic services continue to be major factors that prevent people, including the elderly, children, women, and men, from seeking timely health check-ups and routine monitoring. Socioeconomic constraints do not help either, and only contribute to a general reluctance among poor families to seek medical intervention.
Early detection of diabetes is hard when you are poor and internally displaced. In Lanao del Sur, many people did not know that they were diabetic until they saw CARE Philippines NCD-LOVE. NCD-LOVE was a three-year pilot project designed to introduce innovative approaches to address health issues, specifically non-communicable diseases, diabetes included. From providing technical assistance and capacity buildings to partner government stakeholders, augmenting NCD service delivery in project sites, and ensuring its sustainability through transition plans, the NCD-LOVE indeed provided strong advocacy on health and well-being. In 2023 alone, the project reached 15 municipalities in Lanao del Sur and served 7,031 patients, of which 67% were women.
Using intersectionality as lens to understanding diabetes
Lived experiences of diabetes can be best understood through an intersectional lens that considers the social identities of ordinary Filipinos. Due to deep-seated culture and gender norms, various gender biases have affected not only our behavior towards health but also our understanding of health. According to the World Health Organization, the majority of studies on NCD, diabetes included, have been undertaken on men, and women have been less diagnosed at early stages. As a result, even health interventions have placed women at the periphery of diabetes attention.
“No words could express how CARE helped us and made us happy, especially here in our community,” – shared Alma (not her real name), 58 years old, a woman with diabetes from Boganga Transitory site. That is why the NCD-LOVE project purposefully targeted not only low-income households in conflict-afflicted areas but, more importantly, women.
“We deeply appreciate the invaluable support from CARE and Abbott, which has been instrumental in propelling this NCD-LOVE program forward. Our steadfast commitment to prioritizing health and well-being remains resolute. As we look ahead, our focus remains steadfast on ensuring the sustainability of our NCD-LOVE program, guaranteeing that the progress achieved endures for the long term,” stated IPHO II.
Unlocking one of the key solutions, applying intersectionality in analyzing diabetes, opens discussions beyond the medical model of this life-threatening, non-communicable disease.
The NCD-LOVE project was funded by Abbott and the Abbott Fund.