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World Diabetes Day: Alumnus using digital platforms to promote health and prevent diabetes

Posted: 9 November 2021

Bangladesh, Alumni, COVID-19, Experience, Impact,

Diabetes is a chronic disease that can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and limb amputation. Globally, an estimated 1.5 million deaths in 2019 were directly attributed to diabetes. However, diabetes can be treated, and its health consequences can be avoided with proper awareness and care.

To mark World Diabetes Day, we reflect on the work of Australia Awards alumnus Sajal Kanti Ghosh from Bangladesh, who has taken great strides to create awareness in his home country about preventing and controlling diabetes.

In 2018, Sajal received an Australia Awards Scholarship to undertake a Master of Public Health at Queensland University of Technology. While studying in Australia, Sajal was selected as a university representative to join the Council of International Students Australia’s National Conference 2019 in Perth, Western Australia. That same year, he became an Australian Health Promotion Association member, which boosted his skills to practice, research and study health promotion.

“The journey of the Australia Awards Scholarship has contributed immensely to pursuing my career towards my passion of building a Digital Health platform. The skillset that I developed in public health research, healthcare service quality management and health information management during the course in Australia was a life-changing experience,” says Sajal.

After completing his master’s degree and returning to Bangladesh in 2020, Sajal has worked to create diabetes awareness, develop a diabetes risk assessment app, and promote a quality and safety culture in hospital settings.

With support from his academic and professional mentors, Sajal developed Health-Care.Solutions, a voluntary digital platform for promoting health and creating general awareness on diabetes. The platform provides evidence-based, reliable information on various health topics to spread knowledge and refute health misconceptions. Sajal enlisted a team of enthusiastic student volunteers to design the infographics and manage the activities.

“Health promotion is an effective tool to tackle global health issues, and I am inspired to improve the status of diabetic patients at an individual and community level. My studies in Australia have given me the skills, and now the responsibility, to protect and improve the health of people and of the community at large” – Sajal Kanti Ghosh

Australia Awards alumnus Sajal Kanti Ghosh with his professional mentors Dr S M Jaglul A. Mozumdar and Dr Noshin Farzana after a discussion session on implementing the Diabetic App, which will assess the risk of developing diabetes. Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2021.

Sajal with his professional mentors Dr S M Jaglul A. Mozumdar and Dr Noshin Farzana after a discussion session on implementing the diabetic app, which will assess the risk of developing diabetes in Bangladesh.

Beyond his volunteer work, Sajal is currently employed as a Senior Visionary Executive at York Hospital Ltd. His notable achievements as a leader in York Hospital include formulating corporate and management philosophies, crafting strategic management plans, introducing and implementing a quality and safety culture in the hospital, and developing Standard Operating Procedures on patient management and facility maintenance.

However, combatting diabetes is always at the forefront of Sajal’s mind, particularly during the pandemic, as individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of complications and death from COVID-19. In April 2021, he submitted an application for the Partnerships for Recovery – Alumni Support Grants and received a grant to advance his diabetes health promotion program and help the health security sector address the challenges brought about by COVID-19.

Using the grant, Sajal and his team are currently developing a mobile phone app and utilising integrated social marketing communication tools to raise awareness among the community about diabetes prevention and control. Sajal’s innovation will initially help identify the risk of developing diabetes, later, it will monitor the improvement or progression of the disease. The team use social media and web technologies to create awareness and promote a healthier lifestyle (e.g. physical exercise, healthy eating, weight management, stress management, common health knowledge) among the high-risk groups.

Besides creating awareness and promoting health among the public, the data analytics module of the app can also be utilised by researchers, policymakers, and public health practitioners for decision-making and program design. Sajal aspires for his app to one day be the most extensive database on diabetes in Bangladesh, with the ability to be easily converted into a participatory surveillance system to monitor changes in the status of diabetic patients.

“I have a strong passion for working on this grant activity project. I am thankful to Australia Awards as, in addition to the funds, alumni implementing the activities are also receiving mentoring support through the project.”

“Our mentor, Dr Karen Medica, is helping me demonstrate expertise and leadership in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and lead a meaningful change for my community,” says Sajal.

Sajal’s team has recently conducted a virtual health festival that included quizzes, art, presentations, and speech competitions on diabetes, heart disease and First Aid. The event attracted more than 250 students from different universities, colleges and schools in Bangladesh.

“While we celebrate this year’s World Diabetes Day under the theme ‘Access to Diabetes Care’, to make diabetic care accessible to everyone, we have to start raising mass awareness about diabetes among all age groups. Inclusion of adolescents and young adults in the diabetes-related education program can have a dual benefit, including practising a healthy lifestyle from an early age and supporting the elderly people with diabetes,” Sajal concludes.

Image on top: Australia Awards alumnus Sajal Kanti Ghosh (far right) with fellow alumni at the Australia Awards – South and West Asia Scholars Forum in 2019.