EDITORIAL: Good health care matters
ON the eve of World Diabetes Day recently, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) urged better control of diabetes to prevent related complications as well as potentially life-threatening complications associated with COVID-19 infections. PAHO also called for continued access to primary health care services and treatment for persons living with diabetes amid the new coronavirus.
PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne, pointed out that in the Americas, more than 60 million people are living with diabetes, primarily Type 2, and if no action is taken, it is estimated that there will be more than 100 million adults with the disease by 2040. In addition, each year more than 340,000 people in the region die from diabetes-related complications. Meanwhile, COVID-19 has already infected more than 21 million people in the region and cases continue to rise. Her organisation further noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the daily routines of millions of people in the region and has made the disease more difficult to manage. A recent PAHO/WHO survey documented that more than half of the countries in the Americas reported that diabetes and diabetic complications management services were disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic, with limited access to essential medicines and technologies.
In a release, PAHO has therefore urged countries to ensure that diabetes care remains fully available to patients during the pandemic. This may mean offering care outside traditional settings, using digital health solutions, disseminating information and bringing care closer to the population through community health workers. The organisation also called on health professionals – including nurses, who are recognised this year by the World Diabetes Day campaign for their critical support of people with diabetes – to ensure that people with diabetes understand their risk and have access to quality health services, information and tools to manage their disease. PAHO also called on those living with diabetes to control their disease by staying active, eating healthy and monitoring their condition, particularly during the pandemic.
That said, we here in Barbados should be focusing on our diets more, ensuring that our dietary habits will lead to healthy outcomes and that the meals that we choose are both affordable and sustainable. We need to do more to reduce the incidence of NCDs in our island, inclusive of diabetes and other ills.
Considering that Type 2 diabetes – which accounts for the majority of global cases and is largely due to excessive body weight, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity – is on the rise worldwide and we know this is the same regionally, we should pay greater heed to what we can do to remedy this situation. As PAHO points out, diabetes complications can be prevented through improved treatment and quality of care. Diabetes can be prevented through health and fiscal policies, legislation, environmental changes and public awareness to prevent risk factors, including obesity, unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyles. Examples of these interventions include taxes on sugary drinks, bans on the advertising of ultra-processed foods for children, front-of-package food labelling to advise consumers of high salt, sugar and fat content, and promotion of safe and accessible recreational spaces to encourage active living.
Let us also consider that a healthy diet and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day can reduce the likelihood of children and adolescents becoming overweight and having NCDs in general.