Diabetes becoming a serious threat to health


IT is a shame that World Diabetes Day yesterday went by without much fanfare despite the incidence of diabetes being on the rise in the country.
World Diabetes Day is the primary global awareness campaign focusing on diabetes and is held on Nov 14 each year.
This year’s theme was “Women and Diabetes – our right to a healthy future”.
Led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), each World Diabetes Day focuses on Type 2 Diabetes, which is largely a preventable and treatable non-communicable disease that is rapidly increasing worldwide, and Type 1 Diabetes, which is not preventable but can be treated with insulin injections.
Topics covered have included diabetes and human rights, diabetes and lifestyle, diabetes and obesity, diabetes among the disadvantaged and the vulnerable, and diabetes in children and adolescents. While the campaigns last the whole year, the day itself marks the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best and John James Rickard Macleod, first conceived the idea which led to the discovery of insulin in 1922.
World statistics indicate that about 199 million people are living with diabetes globally and that number is projected to increase to 313 million by 2040.
Sadly for Papua New Guinea, statistics is a huge challenge in almost everything.
The Health Department says that what has been reported indicates that more than half of our people with diabetes are women.
Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally, causing 2.1 million deaths each year as a result of socio-economic conditions. Two out of five women with diabetes are in the reproductive-age group.
Diabetes in women can complicate pregnancy and delivery.
Type 2 diabetes is common globally and is caused mostly by what is consumed and the lack of physical activities such walking, jogging, running, digging, gardening, paddling, etc.
The current lifestyle in PNG cities and towns is contributing to the increase in diabetes, especially Type 2.
Most people do not know they have diabetes until they have complications such as foot ulcers and blindness, and almost 90 per cent of diabetes patients visiting health facilities arrive with complications.
Diet is a problem. A study indicates that 98.9 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s population eat fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  This means that most people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables which contain less fat and sugar.
The recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day help reduce lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart problems.
It is recommended that each person spends at least 30 minutes a day doing some form of physical activity, and avoids tobacco, alcohol and betel nut, with alcohol consumption posing about a 78.6% risk factor, chewing of betel nut 78.3%, and smoking 43% for adults and 33% for young people.
It is important and advisable that every individual must take stock of her or his own health – know what he or she is taking, eat more fruits and vegetables, do physical activities, swap soft drinks for water, quit smoking, quit binge drinking and – when drinking – have only four standard drinks.
According to the World Health Organisation’s checklist on our national response to diabetes, we do not have an operational policy, strategy or action plan for diabetes; we do not have an operational policy, strategy or action plan to reduce obesity; we do not have an operational policy,    strategy or action plan to increase physical inactivity; we do not have a diabetes registry; and we have had no recent national risk factor survey in which blood glucose was measured.
The issue itself is huge for the Health Department alone to address.
It requires a government-wide approach to ensure healthy choices are available, including the availability of affordable locally grown food.
It is now time for the Health Department to put together a monitoring baseline for diabetes that include being aware of the progress other countries are making in dealing with this epidemic.