Diabetes prevalence in South-East Asia region expected to increase by 68% by 2045: WHO

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: On World Diabetes Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) called for increased access to quality diabetes education for health and care workers, the public and people living with diabetes as part of efforts to achieve access for all to quality, affordable diabetes care.

Globally, around 422 million people have diabetes, and 1.5 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes every year.

In the WHO South-East Asia Region (SEARO), more than 96 million people are estimated to have diabetes. Another 96 million are pre-diabetic. Diabetes causes at least 600,000 deaths annually. By 2045, unless urgent action is taken, the prevalence of diabetes in the Region is expected to increase by 68 percent.

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease that if detected late, or improperly managed, can lead to serious and life-threatening damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

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Calling for action in several key areas, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, said, first, policy makers should set time-bound targets to address gaps in service coverage, with a focus on equity and leaving no one behind.

The next step, she said, is high-impact, cost-effective and context-appropriate interventions that must continue to be identified and implemented. For this, the Global Diabetes Compact, launched in April 2021, calls for targeted efforts to enhance community empowerment and increase private sector engagement.

She said policy makers should also continue to strengthen Primary Health Care (PHC) service delivery, ensuring that diabetes screening and care is available, accessible, acceptable, and of adequate quality, without discrimination, accelerating momentum from the 2016 Colombo Declaration.

“Countries must continue to promote access to essential medicines and priority devices, including insulin, in national benefit packages — a key focus of the Region’s Flagship Priority on Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” she said.

Dr Khetrapal said to help stop the rise in diabetes, and protect tomorrow, education on diabetes must continue to be strengthened.

From the primary level up, health and care workers must have the resources and knowledge to detect diabetes early and to adequately care for people living with diabetes.

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“People living with diabetes must have access to in-depth knowledge on how best to manage their condition, which may include compliance with medication and regular check-ups. And the general public must be fully aware of how to prevent diabetes – for example by adopting a healthy lifestyle – and to detect its signs and symptoms, such as the need to urinate often, thirst, constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue,” she added.

People living with diabetes have a 1.5-fold higher risk of getting infected with TB. Gestational diabetes increases the risk of neonatal morbidity and mortality, as well as the likelihood of developing diabetes later in life, she added.

On World Diabetes Day, the WHO reiterates its commitment to support all countries of the Region to promote and implement policy, legislative, and regulatory measures to reduce the risk of diabetes, and to bring quality, affordable diabetes care to all who need it, leaving no one behind, Dr Khetrapal said.

In 2021, amid the Covid-19 response, WHO supported the delivery of insulin donations to Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste, alongside 45 other low-and middle-income countries globally.

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