Diabetes, the number one non-communicable disease affecting Grenadians was the focus for World Health Day, which was observed on April 7.
The focus of World Health Day: Beat Diabetes is to scale up prevention, strengthen care and enhance surveillance of Diabetes.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2008, an estimated 347 million people in the world had Diabetes and the prevalence is growing, particularly in low and middle-income countries.
In 2012, Diabetes was the direct cause of some 1.5 million deaths, with more than 80% of those occurring in low and middle-income countries. WHO projects that the disease will be the 7th leading cause of death by 2030.
Speaking on a popular radio programme last Thursday, Director of Primary Health Care in the Ministry of Health, Dr Francis Martin explained why the focus on Diabetes for World Health Day 2016 is a good move.
“Diabetes can affect every single organ in the human body, including your nerves and it has very significant impact on persons quality of life, their productivity and the complications are, for persons who have things like ulcers and so on, is humiliating so to speak”, he said.
“…Because of the ability to affect all of the continuum from children to adult and because it can affect every single organ in your body, I think this is why some focus has to be placed on it and the other thing because it is preventable in a lot of the cases and it’s because of lifestyle,” he added.
Dr. Martin noted that the disease is treatable but some difficulties are experienced with type one Diabetes.
“A great portion has to do with genetic problems. For some strange reason, it happens in children where the pancreas just refuses to produce insulin and there is a number of theories why that has happened.
“One theory is that the body’s immune system is working against it and start killing off those cells and so they wont be able to produce insulin. For those unfortunately, they would have to be put on insulin for the rest of their lives.
Dr. Martin stated that type two Diabetes is more prevalent in the Grenada, as more and more people are being diagnosed.
“One of the things is because of our excessive sugar loads, the amount of sugar that we take, it kind of forces your pancreas to keep producing lots and lots of insulin. It kinda puts a pressure on the pancreas and over time this moves the functionality. As a matter of fact, in medicine we now know that by the time that a person is actually diagnosed as diabetic, type two diabetic that is, about 50% of their cells which produce insulin are already dead”, he told the programme host.
“…Another reason we find of type two diabetes is something we call insulin resistance. That means the body is producing insulin but the insulin is not able to help that glucose to get into the cells, in other words, your body refusing insulin,” he said.
Dr. Martin stressed the importance of staying away from foods that are processed and high in sugar on a regular basis to help avoid diabetes.
However, he was quick to add that structures within the system are making it difficult for people to do what is right.
“We may say we should not give children sugary foods because that is increasing their chances of diabetes but at the same time if the system allows sugary foods to be sold in snacks, if the system allows sugary drinks to come into the country and expose people to it, then that makes it difficult.
“…Another thing has to do with poverty; people who are poor are less likely to make the right decision because they have to eat what is available to them.
The Ministry of Health in commemoration of World Health Day has had a number of health drives on diabetes, sensitising the nation on the causes and preventions.