Let’s Have A Sweet Chat!

It is often easy for someone with a chronic disease such as diabetes to suffer in silence. Sometimes, due to the reluctance to disclose discomfort or unusual symptoms, people suffering from diabetes can go undiagnosed for a long time.

The person may mask feelings or symptoms until a diabetic emergency or complication arises, which could be a little too late.

Diabetes continues to be a growing epidemic around the world – currently diabetes affects approximately 285 million people worldwide. Over the next 20 years, it is estimated that the number of patients is expected to increase by 50%, reaching close to 438 million.

50-80% of all people with diabetes are unaware of their condition and as such are undiagnosed, leading to 40% of patients already present with some form of organ damage at diagnosis.


In Malaysia, the prevalence of diabetes in Malaysia continues to rise at an alarming rate. To date, Malaysia has exceeded the projected figures on diabetes prevalence from the World Health Organisation.

The recent National Health and Morbidity Survey IV 2011 estimates that the total number of Malaysian adults aged 18 and above suffering from diabetes is 2.6 million, bringing the prevalence rate to 15.2% or one in five Malaysians.

“The prevalence of diabetes in Malaysia is worrying. While there are a lot of efforts at creating awareness, we need more efforts in engaging patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals to have conversations about diabetes so that further understanding about treatment and management can be fostered.” said Dr. Arlene Ngan, Consultant Endocrinologist at Sau Seng Lum (SSL) Diabetes Care Center and Diabetes Conversation Maps Expert trainer.


Communication is the key to successful management of diabetes and the Diabetes Conversation Maps, a patient-focused programme that is developed and sponsored by Lilly Diabetes, does just that by fostering better understanding about diabetes.

The Diabetes Conversation Maps improves patient understanding, self-management and enhances patient-healthcare professional interaction. The programme is Lilly Diabetes’ international three-year partnership with Healthy Interactions and the International Diabetes Federation Europe along with other thought leaders – all working together to develop and distribute the unique, conversation-based and educational tool.

Designed for use in small groups of three to ten patients, the Conversation Maps function as an engaging table top visual that uses stimulating questions to foster communication between people with diabetes and healthcare professionals, creating a secure and comfortable atmosphere to learn more about managing the disease.

“The maps facilitate a two-way conversation process about the disease and give patients the opportunity to interact with others who suffer from the same condition. There is tremendous power in speaking with someone in the same situation as it is encouraging and comforting to know that you are not alone in your experiences and emotions,” explains Dr Ngan.

Through these maps, patients learn relevant information, better self-management behaviours and retain on-going support. People living with diabetes leave the Conversation Map sessions inspired to make changes so that they may live with this disease successfully.

Diabetes is a progressive disease and a life-long personal journey. Success in overcoming the challenges of this disease does not come through medical intervention alone.

The Diabetes Conversations could facilitate better patient interactions with healthcare professionals and better understanding of how to manage diabetes.

“The creative visuals and interesting questions will be an entertaining and empowering way for patients to open up about their condition. We want to create a positive environment where patients can disclose and share their experiences without fear of judgment. This tool empowers the patient.” added Dr. Arlene Ngan.

The Diabetes Conversation programme was launched in more than 40 countries with customized Conversation Map tools in more than 25 different languages including Bahasa Malaysia.

To find the nearest place to join a Diabetes Conversation programme, contact the Diabetes Helpline at 1-800-88-1631.

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