“If you have money you can get treatment, if not the best thing to do is die.” Arminia explained her hopelessness in battling diabetes. Diabetics in the rural communities of Guatemala express similar hopelessness with the severity of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Collaborative research on these perspectives associated with diabetes was recently conducted in multiple rural communities within Guatemala by Wuqu’ Kawoq staff. Along with the primary treatment costs of diabetes, the long-term conditions and complications resulting from poor management of this disease compound the economic burden. Wuqu’ Kawoq recognizes this economic burden can weigh heavier on those residing in the rural communities. All health services are therefore maintained without any costs to the patients. The hopelessness of the diabetic patients has been directly lessened by the presence of Wuqu’ Kawoq. Arminia now states, “Without the Wuqu’ Kawoq physician, I would have let my life end.”
Aside from the economic burdens associated with chronic illness, “Diabetes is a social disease.” The debilitating effects of this chronic illness can threaten a person’s employment and thus the overall well-being of an entire family. Furthermore, adherence to treatment is not only dependent on the individual patient but also their family and social groups. Knowledge of diabetes varies greatly and is affected by medical pluralism, which is the often contradictory medical advice stemming from various sources such as pharmacists, natural healers, market vendors, nurses, family members, friends, and casual acquaintances. One patient Abraham explained his predicament in receiving various advice, “With diabetes I was alone and didn’t know where to go, and I couldn’t know because so many people were giving me advice.” His son recommended seeking treatment through Wuqu’ Kawoq. With consults conducted in his primary Mayan language, a greater level of trust was created which helped to overcome the confusion created by multiple outside sources.
Wuqu Kawoq’ is extending the availability of high-quality medical services and diabetes educational and support groups. Partnering with the Institution of Nutrition in Central America and Panama (INCAP) and APRECOR (Guatemalan Organization for Prevention of Heart Disease), Wuqu’ Kawoq is implementing these high-quality services in the rural communities of Guatemala. In the coming year, medication and diagnostic supplies are being expanded, educational and support groups developed, and culturally appropriate educational materials provided. The social implications and immediate biomedical aspects of diabetes mellitus are inseparable and Wuqu’ Kawoq therefore implements programs designed to address all of these obstacles to chronic illness management.