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For diabetes, prevention is better, cheaper

Published by Tribune on Sat, 22 Nov 2014

On November 14, the attention of the world was, again, focused on the debilitating scourge called diabetes mellitus during the now well-known World Diabetes Day, the third in the series. Diabetes remains a leading non-communicable disease worldwide. It is indeed a scourge that inflicts untold suffering and death to its victims.It is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage and amputation. A sufferer stands a higher risk of dying from heart and brain attacks.Presently, 382 million people are living with diabetes worldwide. By 2035, 592 million people or one person in 10 will have the disease. A further 316 million people are currently at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with the number expected to increase to almost 500 million within a generation. What makes the pandemic particularly menacing is that throughout much of the world, it remains hidden. Up to half of all people with diabetes globally remain undiagnosed.These facts and figures reiterate the importance of urgent action. Most cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented and the serious complications of diabetes can be avoided through healthy lifestyles and living in environments that encourage and facilitate healthy behaviour.Diabetes affects both the young and the old, although more adults are affected than younger people. There are different types of diabetes, but most people either have the type 1 or type 2 variety. Type 1 occurs more commonly in children and the young while type 2 afflicts older people. What has, however, become a source of great concern is the increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes in the children and young persons! The reasons for this are not unconnected with the increasing sedentary lifestyle and prevalence of overweight and obesity in our population. These are results of increasing westernisation and urbanisation of our environment.Prevention is better and cheaperWhat is dreaded most in diabetes is the complications of the condition. Because of diabetes, an able-bodied man can be rendered blind, maimed and useless to fend for himself and his family. Other vital organs of the body such as the heart and kidneys can fail because of the condition. Unfortunately, for the teeming masses of Nigerians that fall victim of diabetes and its complications, they are expected to pay for their medical bills themselves, unlike other places where governments, through robust medical insurance schemes, come to the rescue of their citizens. It is now common to see relations helplessly watch their loved ones delivered to the throes of death because they cannot afford the medical costs required to treat them. That is why, for diabetes, at whatever level, prevention is better than cure! For those who do not have the disease, they must do everything not to develop it. For those who already have it, they must cooperate with their care givers so as not to develop the complications of the disease.How do we prevent diabetes and its complications'The United Nations on December 21, 2006, passed a unanimous resolution, recognising diabetes as a global threat, thereby placing it on the same pedestal as HIV/AIDS, and calling for a united effort against the scourge. Efforts should be made towards primary prevention where this is possible, and it is, especially in the type 2 variety (type seen mainly in adults). People should be educated about the danger of indulging in unhealthy eating habits. Candies, soft drinks, snacks and the like must be taken infrequently and with moderation. Government and private corporations should establish outdoor recreation facilities. Ensuring access to basic medical care and subsidising anti-diabetic drugs, especially insulin, are irreducible measures expected of government. If insulin is given free to persons living with diabetes in some countries and that include some developing nations in Africa, why not Nigeria' As a long-term measure, government should work towards the manufacturing of these drugs locally. Government must realise that the resources it takes to adequately care for sufferers of chronic illnesses like diabetes are beyond the reach of a huge percentage of their citizens. The National Health Insurance Scheme must include chronic diseases rather than exclude them as it is in many places where the scheme appears functional.The time has come for us to recognise diabetes as a scourge that must be tamed at all cost. We are better off at preventing this exterminator, the cost of whose treatment most of our people cannot afford. Nigeria must demonstrate its seriousness about reducing mortality as part of the Millennium Development Goals to which it subscribes.
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