A mobile phone text messaging service and a new webportal are bridging the information gap on diabetes in Kenya, where the disease annually kills more people than HIV/AIDS

By P-B Halberg, International Media Support (IMS), and Sandra Sudhoff, CartONG A new project aims to improve diabetes awareness and reliable communication about the disease throughout Kenya through mobile phone technology and a webportal.

Communicating about diabetes

Sensitisation in the villages [photo credit: CartONG]

Sensitisation in the villages [photo credit: CartONG]

IMS has invited Kenyan journalists to take part in the development of new communication tools that can be used to raise awareness about diseases such as diabetes in Kenya. Journalists and organisations are currently testing how such innovative solutions can create possibilities and have impact on best practices in the journalism trade.

The project falls within the scope of “humanitarian information”, where new and traditional media play an important role in providing life-saving information to the public in close collaboration with civil society and humanitarian aid organisations.

Diabetes and new media

New technology makes life saving information available for patients and next of kin with limited access to media. Social media and crowd-sourced media are moving the standards and FrontlineSMS has been instrumental in using their 2.0 platform to bring a voice to thousands of diabetes affected Kenyans.

In partnership with French NGO CartONG, IMS has developed an information portal that targets Internet literates, key operators and decision makers and a parallel SMS service, based on FrontlineSMS software, to reach people outside mainstream media. The portal and communication services are operated by the Kenyan diabetes NGO Diabetes Management Information centre (DMI), in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Health and are funded by the World Diabetes Foundation.

“A silent revolution”

Field Trip to Rift Valley Provincial Hospital, Nakuru

Field Trip to Rift Valley Provincial Hospital, Nakuru

The flow of information about diabetes via the web portal and mobile text messaging is “a silent revolution”, according to Cathrine Karekezi from DMI. Just as community radio plays a major role in reaching communities, the SMS service reaches everyone, beyond mainstream media and gives patients, families and community workers access to information on the disease and critical lifestyle advice such as dietary restrictions. The service also supplies counter-information to dispel myths and verify facts about the disease.

The diabetes pilot project is currently under impact analysis in order to identify lessons learnt and modalities for future programmes.