Global Innovation Fellows Partner with Diabetes South Africa (DSA)

Durban and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Project Overview
In the spring of 2014, five Medtronic Global Innovation Fellows partnered with the staff of Diabetes South Africa (DSA) in Durban and Pietermaritzburg to ideate ways to expand and scale existing diabetes awareness and education programs beyond the urban centers into underserved populations and regions. During the three week immersion trip, the team used different methodology including ethnography, design thinking and business model innovation to generate solutions for DSA. The partnership culminated in several recommendations (see below)

About Diabetes South Africa

DSA is a member of the International Diabetes Federation and was founded in 1969 to support and advocate for all South Africans with diabetes. DSA has a national office in Johannesburg and eight branches primarily run by volunteers and members. Branches have a strong network through linkages with more than 100 smaller diabetes groups and support groups in South Africa. The primary work of DSA includes:

Global Innovation Fellows South Africa
  • Informing, encouraging and supporting all people who have diabetes and their families.
  • Acting as an advocate for people with diabetes, lobbying for better facilities and services and affordable medication.
  • Promoting public awareness of diabetes, its symptoms and risks through diabetes screening and promotion of healthy lifestyle.

The Global Innovation Fellows Team included: Brent Daugherty, Surgical Technologies AE; Sanaz Saatchi, Coronary; Emily Fogelberg, CRDM; Kelly Wesemann, Neuromodulation; and Jeevan Prasannakumar, Neuromodulation.

Health Trends in South Africa. South Africa has a population of 51.7 million (0.7% of the world's population)1, with an urban population of 62%3 The GDP per capita is $7352 with a GDP growth of 2.5%2. Unemployment is 29.8%1. South Africans have a life expectancy of 55 years, and 8.7% of the GDP is spent on healthcare2.

In 2007, South Africa had 17% of the global burden of HIV infection, and one of the world's worst tuberculosis epidemics.4 The 2013 annual death report confirmed the trend that fewer South Africans have been dying of HIV/AIDS-related diseases, however, more are dying of noncommunicable disease such as diabetes5 A documented 3.5 million suffer from diabetes and many more are undiagnosed… another 5 million have pre-diabetes6.

Methodology and Results

The primary focus of the team's work was to determine how to promote diabetes education, awareness and support for ALL South Africans, not just those in urban centers with access to thriving communities and the resources that accompany this. Using a human-centered design approach, the team conducted 46 interviews including patients, health care professionals and other stakeholders to help map out the healthcare experience. After a rigorous interview schedule, the team collected their learnings and developed prototypes and tested them.

Diabetes South Africa reaches diabetics in urban centers through diabetes screenings, support groups, youth camps and local walk-in offices thanks to proximity to and collaboration with: public and private hospitals, clinics, faith organizations, pharmacies, malls and grocery stores, housing, schools and companies. Diabetics in the peri-urban areas, however have fewer resources and must travel to the urban centers for services, which is expensive, time consuming and difficult to navigate. The interviews revealed opportunities in the areas screening location, standardization of processes, data collection to support ongoing services, and leverage and, alignment with existing healthcare protocols – especially communicable diseases like HIV and TB that are experiencing success – to tackle these challenges.


The team worked with the information learned to develop a solutions roadmap that includes the demonstration of screening impact, patient reach, and sustainable funding. A toolkit prototype was developed for the screening process and data collection.

By collecting data, the team will be in a better position to defend and fund their goals that will include:

  • Positioning Diabetes South Africa as a leading organization for diabetes-related education – Education at screening events, hospitals, clinics
  • Being strategic about screening location – Go where people go
  • Streamlining fundraising efforts – Find out what your current customers want
  • Collaborating with willing partners – Pilot outreach by collaborating with community clinic and new connections
  • Collecting data to gain government support

NEXT CASE STUDY: Dr. Mohan's Madras Diabetes Research Foundation - Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India