05 February 2010

Starting a diabetes support group

Are you a doctor, dietician or pharmacist? Do you live in an area where your diabetic patients don't have access to local Diabetes SA branch meetings? Then start a support group.


Are you a doctor, dietician or pharmacist? Do you live in an area where your diabetic patients don't have access to local Diabetes SA branch meetings? Then help start a support group.

The purpose of a support group is to provide information, education, encouragement and support to specific diabetic groups (i.e. parent or teen groups), or diabetics in areas not within easy access to local branch meetings of the Diabetes South Africa.

Branch role in establishing support groups

Where a known number of diabetics exist, clinic and day-hospital sisters, doctors, dieticians and pharmacists should consider starting a group for their patients and others in the area.

Any lay person who is a diabetic and shows interest and is keen to learn more about diabetes and would like to interact with other diabetics should be encouraged and assisted to get a group going. After this, the local Diabetes SA branch should be contacted to help take the process further.

Branches should advertise in the newsletter and make it known at meetings and in talking to members and others as mentioned that they are looking for someone to help get a group started in a specific area.

The branch should offer to access a list of members in the area concerned and assist the person starting a group with advertising of meetings and sending out invitations.

Once a group has started, the branch should monitor the group on a regular basis and continue to encourage and assist if necessary.

The branch should try and involve the groups in their area in fund-raising, membership drives, awareness campaigns, as well as any symposiums or general meetings in which they could be included.

The groups should be made to feel part of Diabetes SA and the branch should meet with them a minimum of once a year, preferably more often.

The branch should ensure that the group is kept supplied with literature and membership forms.

The branch can assist financially with postage or telephone calls when the group is getting started.

The branch should also assist the group by lending videos and providing ideas for speakers and topics for group meetings.

Getting a group started

Once you have someone who is prepared to help get a group going:

They should contact their local service clubs, churches or the local library or clinic and ask if their premises are available to use as a meeting place.

They should set a date, time and venue for their first meeting and advertise in their local community newspapers, put up notices in public places, at retirement villages, old age homes, clinics, doctors' offices, pharmacies churches. Cards or invitations can be printed and clinics, doctors, pharmacists and dieticians can be asked to give them to their diabetic patients inviting them to attend the first meeting.

At the first meeting the group leader should establish the needs of the group and what those attending hope to gain from group.

They can form a small committee to assist with the running of the group i.e. a group leader responsible for organising the meetings and obtaining speakers, a treasurer, someone responsible for teas and perhaps a roster for snacks each meeting.

A committee is not a requirement for a group, but for long-term viability it is advisable so that the responsibility for the group does not rest on one person and should that person be incapacitated or away on holiday there are others who have been involved and can take over. If a committee is not formed the group can easily collapse if the leader becomes unavailable.

The group should make use of as many of their local resources as they can and obtain literature and posters from their local Diabetes SA branch for distribution to clinics, doctors, pharmacists, dieticians in the area.

The group should make use of any videos or library items their branch is able to lend them.

They should be encouraged to hold their own public awareness campaign in their area with the assistance of the branch and the pharmaceutical companies and any other companies willing to assist them.

Local radio stations, community newspapers and pharmacies can be asked to participate in creating diabetic awareness in the area.

The group should act as a source of information about local services available to people with diabetes in their area.

The group leader must advise the branch of any changes to group meeting venues, dates, times and if a new leader is elected.


Support groups need to use the branch fundraising number in order to raise funds in their area.

The group needs to have a kitty to pay for teas, gifts for speakers, phone calls, stamps etc.

Source: Margot McCumisky, Diabetes SA Western Cape Branch

Visit the Diabetes SA website for more information.

- (Health24, February 2008)


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