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BackgroundPatients with diabetes require knowledge and skills to self-manage their disease, a challenging aspect of treatment that is difficult to address in humanitarian settings. Due to the lack of literature and experience regarding diabetes self-management, education and support (DSMES) in refugee populations, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) undertook a DSMES survey in a cohort of diabetes patients seen in their primary health care program in Lebanon.MethodsStructured interviews were conducted with diabetes patients in three primary care clinics between January and February 2015. Scores (0-10) were calculated to measure diabetes core knowledge in each patient (the DSMES score). Awareness of long-term complications and educational preferences were also assessed. Analyses were conducted using Stata software, version 14.1 (StataCorp). Simple and multiple linear regression models were used to determine associations between various patient factors and the DSMES Score.ResultsA total of 292 patients were surveyed. Of these, 92% had type 2 diabetes and most (70%) had been diagnosed prior to the Syrian conflict. The mean DSMES score was 6/10. Having secondary education, previous diabetes education, a 'diabetes confidant', and insulin use were each associated with a higher DSMES Score. Lower scores were significantly more likely to be seen in participants with increasing age and in patients who were diagnosed during the Syrian conflict. Long-term complications of diabetes most commonly known by patients were vision related complications (68% of patients), foot ulcers (39%), and kidney failure (38%). When asked about the previous Ramadan, 56% of patients stated that they undertook a full fast, including patients with type 1 diabetes. Individual and group lessons were preferred by more patients than written, SMS, telephone or internet-based educational delivery models.ConclusionsDSMES should be patient and context appropriate. The variety and complexities of humanitarian settings provide particular challenges to its appropriate provision. Understanding patient baseline DSMES levels and needs provides a useful basis for humanitarian organizations seeking to provide diabetes care.

Original publication





Conflict and health

Publication Date





Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders Canada, 551 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5V 0N8 Canada.