For more than a decade, 62-year old Gildada Rueles has had an active role in the health office of Mati City, Province of Davao Oriental. Since 2003, she has been a barangay (village, smallest unit of government in the Philippines) health worker and has assisted in the implementation of the center’s different programs. In 2009, however, she started to feel symptoms of dry mouth, excessive thirst and frequent urination during some nights. Thinking that these were merely work-relatedshe did not seek consultation.
On 10 March 2012 – three years later – she was admitted at the provincial hospital after having a stroke. Her doctor diagnosed her later with diabetes after finding out that her blood sugar level reached 10.5 mmol/L, much higher than the normal range (5.5-6.0 mmol/L).
While there were medications available for diabetes and hypertension from the health center, Gildada says that there was no program in place that would address the needs of persons with diabetes such as proper education on the non-communicable disease, nutrition, healthy lifestyle and foot care.
In 2013 when Gildada returned to work as a barangay health worker, Dr. Maribeth Hiponia, a former doctor of the Davao City Health Office, together with Nurse Marilou Rodriguez started the implementation of a program for diabetes based on the Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Program of Davao City implemented by Handicap International and the health authorities. They started improvising tools and educational materials and invited people in the community for educational discussion on diabetes. It was a good start but the lack of skilled and trained primary health care providers made program implementation difficult to sustain.
It was only in 2014 when a structured program for diabetes and cardio vascular diseases, called the CVD Program, was put into place when the local government unit of Mati City partnered with Handicap International. Thanks to this Program, a lot of people in the community became aware of diabetes and hypertension. Part of the services of the program are risk assessments through a questionnaire on diabetes, anthropometric measurements (height, weight, waist and hip circumference), blood pressure readings, diet, foot care education and wound care management.
As a primary health care provider, Gildada was trained on the program’s services such as getting proper anthropometric, administering the Diabetes Self-Assessment questionnaire in the community and providing health education on diet and foot care. Moreover, as a person with diabetes, she was enrolled in the CVD Program and was able to access diabetes-specific services.
She became a living example, sharing experiences to her peers with the same condition.
“I learned that there are no restrictions to food but instead, I have to control the portions of my food. Exercising and having a healthy lifestyle is also important,” she says.
Now, apart from her usual work as a barangay health worker, Gildada is reminding her family and the community to visit their health center if they feel the symptoms of diabetesuses her personal bout with diabetes to encourage people about the CVD Program.