Act on Diabetes NOW

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Monday, 14 November 2011 09:36

11 November 2011 | KINGSTON/JAMAICA

On 14 November 2011, countries worldwide will celebrate World Diabetes Day with events to raise global awareness of diabetes. World Diabetes Day unites the global diabetes community to produce a powerful voice for diabetes awareness.  The Day is celebrated on 14 November to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, was instrumental in the discovery of insulin in 1922, a life-saving treatment for diabetes patients.

The theme for this year is “Act on Diabetes. Now”.  Diabetes is not only a health issue – it affects everyone and requires a collective response.  The causes of diabetes are complex and multi-faceted. The majority of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed through addressing the modifiable risk factors – unhealthy diets, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity.

Ms. Margareta Skold, the PAHO/WHO Country Representative in Jamaica, says “that diabetes is a huge and growing problem. WHO estimates that more than 300 million people worldwide have diabetes now and if nothing is done, this will rise to 500 million within a generation.  Diabetes is a deadly disease with life threatening complications.  Every eight seconds, someone dies in the world from diabetes. Diabetes is a major cause of poverty, a barrier to economic development and is undermining the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. No country is immune from the diabetes epidemic; however, diabetes is increasing fastest in low-income countries.  It hits the poorest the hardest and is increasingly hitting people of working age. The cost of diabetes and its complications can throw a poor family into destitution. Diabetes results in high healthcare costs, loss of labour productivity and reduced economic growth.”

World Diabetes Day is a call to implement effective strategies and policies for the prevention and management of diabetes to safeguard the health of citizens with and at risk of diabetes. 

The Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer says that “the prevalence of diabetes in Jamaica continues to increase. This is a worrying trend as diabetes and other chronic non communicable diseases are responsible for about 56% of deaths in Jamaica. The Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey 2008 indicates that the prevalence of diabetes among Jamaican women 15-74 years is 9.3% compared to 6.4% among their male counterpart. While the disease affects mostly persons over 60 years old, we are seeing an increasing trend in the number of people with diabetes of all age groups who are affected. This tells us that everyone is at risk for developing diabetes and it can no longer be considered and ‘old people’ disease.  This disease has impacted the lives of individuals and their families and has also created a burden on the health system. Diabetes can be controlled and even prevented if we observe some simple lifestyle changes.  I urge persons to exercise daily for at least 30 minutes, have a balanced diet which includes fruits and vegetables, reduce their alcohol intake, quit smoking and take medications as prescribed. These adjustments can make a huge difference in your quality of life.”

The Caribbean is the sub-region in the Americas that has been most heavily affected by the rising epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes. NCDs account for nearly 50 percent of disability-adjusted life years lost in the Caribbean, and the economic impact of these diseases threatens the development of the region’s small economies. However, Caribbean countries have pioneered effective ways to fight the growing epidemic of NCDs, setting examples that other countries around the world can follow.  At the United Nations Summit on NCDs held in New York City in September of this year, Caribbean leaders were recognized as being one of the first to mobilize political commitment at the highest level to fight NCDs and for advocacy.

The 2007 heads of state summit — held in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad — produced a joint Caribbean response to the NCD epidemic. The declaration that emerged from that meeting, “Uniting to stop the epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases,” was cited in the resolution on NCDs passed by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2011.

The actions called for by the General Assembly echo the multi sector approach endorsed by the Caribbean countries which involves every single entity, every single area of endeavour, including the public sector and the private sector, and working together to see how we can help our societies overcome the threat of NCDs.

We can defeat diabetes.  Inaction is not an option.  Together we must act now. We know what to do – we have the evidence, we have the cost-effective solutions, we have the tools and we have the skills.