Diabetes type two is a major and increasing health challenge in Tower Hamlets. Factors contributing to this increase are poor diets and sedentary lifestyles, obesity, genetic and cultural factors which increase the chance of contracting the disease. Whilst diabetes type two is commonly found among older people, it is increasingly affecting younger people as well. We trained a small team of local people from the Aberfeldy Estate in Tower Hamlets to undertake participatory research in order to find out about the different perspectives, knowledge and attitudes towards diabetes type two in their community.
At the outset of this project we were told that people wouldn’t want to talk about diabetes. However, our experience was the opposite: by listening to people’s stories and experiences, giving them time and gaining their trust, they opened up and started talking about it a great deal. The researchers consulted with some 250 people in the course of the project, drawn from all sections of the community in terms of gender, age and ethnicity. Whilst most of the people consulted were residents, the researchers also spoke with professionals working in the area and other stakeholders.
The project resulted in a number of community-based solutions to tackle diabetes type two in the area. These include the need to:
- Increase community awareness of existing health and wellbeing services available in the area, and proactively connect with local people in a meaningful way in order to engage them.
- Harness the power and ability of younger people to influence both elders and their peers.
- Improve green spaces and public realm to make the neighbourhood cleaner, safer to encourage more activity, social interaction and greater well-being.
- Improve the local food offer so that healthy options are available.
The full report is available to download for free here.