A different approach to Ramadan – by Jasmin Chowdhury

Hi I am Jasmin. My role involves developing and delivering partnerships with mainly external organisations from different sectors including health professionals and community groups. Designed in a culturally appropriate manner these programmes aim to actively engage communities in raising awareness and making changes around prevention and better self-management for those living with Type 2 diabetes.

Ramadan – a month of fasting is about to start and like the 3 million or so Muslims across the UK I have started thinking about the implications. This year Ramadan is expected to start from 26th May and will involve fasting for around 18 hours between sunrise and sunset. Whilst observing the fasting we refrain from food, drinks, worldly engagements and desires.

For me it’s a time to reflect on ourselves as well as what is going on around us so that where possible we can make changes to lead a more fulfilling life. As I was growing up I remember there was an air of calm and serenity throughout the whole month of Ramadan. With time and life in general it’s become (more difficult to achieve the same level of calm and serenity in my household! But this is something many Muslim households up and down the country will be striving to achieve during Ramadan.

One of the key objectives of Ramadan is to contemplate the suffering of those who are living in poverty and often deprived of basic requirements for survival such as food and clean water. Many will donate to charity to help children and families in dire needs in all different parts of the world.

Changes around food

For me it feels all too easy to lose sight of this objective as we prepare for and go through Ramadan. The big feast especially when we break the fast in the evenings usually includes way too much food! As well as not being very good for our health some of the food is also wasted and thrown away.

Having made a conscious decision about avoiding wasting food as much as possible I have made significant changes around the food we buy, the way we cook and eat. (I have found weekly planning helps to think more about healthy eating and to limit my shopping to only buying what I need and the amount I need. I have also adapted cooking methods so I measure oil/ fat in my cooking and have significantly reduced the amount of oil I use.)

Ramadan can be a testing time with all the gatherings and events with family and friends to break together and sticking to this principle can put you at risk of being labelled as a bad host or a stingy person! However as the discussions at these gatherings would often involve talking about the purpose and objectives of Ramadan I have found them to be an effective platform for sharing and exchanging thoughts on issues such as diabetes.

Being south Asian and with diabetes in the family, I know that my chances of developing diabetes are 2-4 times higher. Food and lifestyle choices play a critical role in both preventing and managing Type 2 diabetes. For those living with diabetes medication and lifestyle play a pivotal role in delaying the onset as well as preventing some of the damaging complications.

Since joining Diabetes UK just over a year ago I have realised the scale of the challenge in getting the message across to individuals from all walks of life and communities about how serious diabetes is and the associated risks. One of the biggest asset we have in our campaign to know diabetes and to fight diabetes are our Community Champions. We recently reached a great milestone of recruiting and training 1000 champions. Every year many of our Community Champions organise presentations, talks, interviews with the media and stalls during Ramadan to ensure we are getting all the information to those affected in an appropriate manner.

This year is no exception and we are working closely with our Community Champions, partners, colleagues and communities to ensure we can get the messages across and help people with diabetes make an informed choice about fasting and the implications. Also to remind everyone that Ramadan is also a time for reaching out and engaging with communities and to think about bringing about positive changes in society as a whole.

More information

If you would like to know more about Ramadan or have any questions please email me or Farhana in the Engaging Communities team at communitychampions@diabetes.org.uk

Find out more Diabetes UK’s Community Champions
Find out more about managing Ramadan and diabetes

 

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