The World Health Organization (WHO) was founded on April 7, 1948. Every year, the anniversary is observed as World Health Day across the world with a theme to highlight a concern in public health. On that Day, the medical and health community gather to create a global platform for individuals in every community to involve in activities that promote better health.
This year, the WHO is focusing on diabetes – a very relevant theme with the hashtag #BeatDiabetes already making its way to social media. The goals of this year’s World Health Day are to scale up prevention of diabetes, strengthen the care services available and enhance surveillance methods to counter this serious and chronic non-communicable disease which is largely preventable and treatable if detected in time.
Diabetes is a fast growing condition in many countries, especially the under-developed and the developing ones. The WHO figures stand at 350 million people across the world living with diabetes and about 1.5 million deaths because of diabetes. These alarming figures only tell us the need of the hour – to control and manage the disease with simple lifestyle measures of eating healthy, some exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, timely diagnosis, self awareness and medical treatment to keep off complications.
Diabetes is a medical condition which happens when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the human body is unable to use up the insulin it produces. There are 3 types of diabetes –
- Type 1 diabetes – Very common and frequent among children and growing teenagers.
- Type 2 diabetes – The most common among adults which happens due to obesity, lack of exercise and a poor diet
- Gestational diabetes – A temporary complication during pregnancy where blood sugar values are above normal and mostly affects 10 percent expectant mothers. It has long term risks of type 2 diabetes and a complicated delivery.
Type 2 diabetes is the most rampant and accounts for 90-95 percent of cases though thankfully, it is preventable and can be avoided by limiting major risk factors like obesity, which contributes about 44 percent of cases, lack of physical activity which contributes about 27 percent of cases and the remaining 33 percent is attributed to smoking, alcohol abuse, family history and unknown causes.
The only way to prevent type 2 diabetes is by weight-watching, eating a healthy balanced diet and regular physical activity. Those with diabetes also have to do the same and more like proper blood sugar levels to fend off diabetes related chronic complications such as blindness, nerve problems, kidney problems or peripheral vascular insufficiency that may lead to amputation of limbs among others.
This year’s theme of World Health Day is to revisit how to beat diabetes from a public health perspective. Prevention of the disease can happen on a large scale if the law agencies can implement necessary public policies to curtail weight issues, make healthy food and exercise available. Side by side, accessibility to affordable medical facilities is important in terms of diagnosis, medication and care.
Diabetes is a costly disease to manage given its complexities and repercussions with other organs and tissues. Such a disease requires optimal and proactive functioning of health services that will include routine attention and proactive follow-up by the health authorities. This requires active participation and monitoring from the state agencies to guarantee health policies with access to drugs and services including specialized care.
Ideally, an integrated health services network dedicated for diabetes is the need of the hour. Medical and health professionals have to equip and update with the latest training and education on diabetes management from the use of insulin to foot care to support to patients who need self-management.
Self-management of diabetes is often taken for granted but primary health workers need to support patients with guides and protocols equipped with the latest scientific data and with continuous monitoring through an efficient clinical information system. Complementary services like community self-help groups and patient associations help patients live a better life.
Countries and their legislation need to come up with awareness campaigns and policies to reach out and help patients achieve therapeutic objectives of adequate glycemic control, healthy life choices of being physically active and eating right, encourage breastfeeding, improve quality of meals and physical activity in school, market control and regulation of reasonably-priced drugs and treatment and continue surveillance, research and evaluation.