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Diabetes education: Protect tomorrow by investing today – Opinion

Diabetes awareness month takes place every year in November, with the 14th recognised as World Diabetes Day. First established by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization in 1991, World Diabetes Day has been recognised as an official UN World Health Day since 2006. Awareness activities on and around the day help focus attention on what is required to address the growing diabetes pandemic and ensure that people living with diabetes receive the care they need to manage their condition successfully to avoid or delay the associated debilitating and life-threatening complications.

To mark the occasion this year, IDF is focussing the World Diabetes Day campaign on diabetes education and is calling on governments to increase investment to provide better support to healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes.

According to the latest IDF estimates, over one in four (26.7%) adults in Pakistan are living with diabetes, the highest prevalence in the world. More than a quarter (27%) of these 32.9 million people are undiagnosed, placing them at higher risk of complications such as heart attack, stroke, blindness and nerve damage. Diabetes was responsible for over 400,000 deaths in Pakistan last year.

In an effort to help curb the rise of diabetes, the World Health Organization (WHO) have agreed an ambitious set of global diabetes coverage targets, to be achieved by 2030. These targets include identifying and diagnosing four in five of all diabetes cases and ensuring good control of blood sugar and blood pressure. The targets include treating 60% of all people with diabetes over 40 with medication to lower cholesterol and ensuring that all people with type 1 diabetes have access to affordable insulin and blood glucose self-monitoring. This is important because, without access to insulin therapy and all that is required to make it successful, type 1 diabetes is an unnecessary death sentence.

A great deal of work will be required for these targets to be achieved. Diabetes education plays a vital role to ensure early diagnosis and treatment, and support people with diabetes to manage their condition.

Education to support self-care

The number of people living with diabetes is rising quickly in Pakistan, with the country seeing a 70% increase between 2019 and 2021. The total number is expected to reach 43 million by 2030. This rise is putting additional pressure on healthcare systems, with healthcare professionals having less time available to spend in consultation with people with diabetes in their care.

For over 95% of the time, people living with diabetes are looking after themselves. It is therefore critical that they have access to up-to-date and reliable information to support their self-care and prevent diabetes-related complications.

Diabetes changes over the life-cycle requiring adjustments. Awareness of what to look out for and what to do are hugely important. Making sure that the multiple decisions that people living with diabetes need to make are well informed requires education based on scientific evidence.

Knowing what to do and when to act can help prevent diabetes complications, providing not only a better quality of life for people living with diabetes, but also benefiting Pakistan’s healthcare system by reducing the high costs associated with treating and managing secondary complications.

Access to education for healthcare professionals

Ongoing diabetes education is also important for Pakistan’s healthcare professionals. It is particularly important for primary care physicians, pharmacists and community health workers to have a good knowledge of diabetes to help them identify people at high risk and diagnose the condition early. At diagnosis, they must be equipped to provide the right advice and tools to support ongoing self-care.

Ensuring educational resources and training are available and accessible to healthcare professionals helps them keep their diabetes knowledge up-to-date and make the most of the limited time they have available with their patients.

An ongoing global commitment

IDF is committed to helping achieve the WHO global diabetes coverage targets and ensuring the provision of better diabetes care on a global scale. To help facilitate learning opportunities for both healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes, the IDF School of Diabetes offers free online courses to better understand the condition and support ongoing professional development.

There is still much work to be done, however, which is why IDF is calling on the Pakistan diabetes community and members of the public to lobby their governments and health ministers to request further resource be allocated to diabetes education.

According to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, diabetes is now the only major non-communicable disease for which the risk of dying early is continuing to rise. It is a pandemic of increasing magnitude and without additional commitment and investment from international governments it will continue to grow.

Government action needs to be taken now, to increase awareness among populations and improve the training of healthcare professionals to provide the best possible care for people living with diabetes. We need to provide diabetes education today to protect tomorrow.

Submit a letter to your national health minister through IDF’s online tool:

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Read More: Diabetes education: Protect tomorrow by investing today – Opinion

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