On November 14th every year, WHO and PAHO celebrate World Diabetes Day. The day of observance is an opportunity to increase awareness regarding diabetes as one of the biggest public health concerns and share what needs to be done, both individually as well as collectively. This day helps improve the prevention, diagnosis, and proper management of diabetes among people. The theme for World Diabetes Day 2021 is “access to diabetes care: if not now, when?”
A century has passed since insulin was discovered, yet access to diabetes care and management continues to be a significant challenge in multiple countries. World Diabetes Day 2021 is an opportunity to highlight the urgent need to increase access for diabetes diagnosis, management, and treatment to prevent any form of complications and improve the quality of life people with diabetes lead on a daily basis.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has created many threats and challenges in healthcare, especially when it comes to ensuring the continuity of essential services and medication for people living with the constant threat of diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that directly challenges the metabolism of a person. The condition is characterized by elevated blood glucose levels, leading to serious damages to one’s heart, eyes, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves. The most common type of diabetes is Type 2, which can usually be seen in adults, occurring when a person’s body can be resistant to insulin or is unable to make enough insulin.
The prevalence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically in the past three decades across all countries of all kinds of income and GDP levels. Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition where one’s pancreas can produce a little bit or almost no insulin on its own. People living with diabetes require proper access to affordable treatment, management, and diagnosis, including insulin critical to their survival. Understanding the essence of the problem, there is a globally agreed-upon target to combat the rise in obesity and diabetes by 2025.
Approximately 422 million people globally have diabetes, most of these people living in low and middle-income nations. Over 1.5 million deaths are attributed directly to diabetes every year. The total number of cases and the prevalence of diabetes have both been increasing steadily over the past few decades.
Diabetes Prevention and Treatment
Type 1 Diabetes cannot be prevented entirely at the moment. Effective approaches, however, are available to treat and prevent Type 2 diabetes. There are also practical approaches to prevent all kinds of complications and premature deaths arising from both types of diabetes. These include practices and policies across all kinds of populations and demographics, within various social settings - home, workplaces, schools, and colleges, contributing to good healthcare for everyone, regardless of whether or not they have diabetes. Exercising regularly, eating healthy, controlling blood pressure and lipids, avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption is essential to combat the problem.
The starting point to understand how one can live well despite the disease is early diagnosis. The longer a person lives with diabetes left undiagnosed and untreated, the worse their health will be in the years to come. Access to basic diagnostics, like blood glucose testing, should be readily available in primary healthcare settings. Patients need to get periodically tested and assessed and get treated against all kinds of complications.
Various cost-effective interventions can enhance the health outcome of a patient, regardless of what diabetes type they are suffering from. These interventions include managing blood glucose levels, controlling diets, increasing physical activities, intake of proper medication, controlling blood pressure, lipids, reducing risks against cardiovascular diseases and other kinds of complications, and regular screening for damages to other organs like eyes, feet, kidney, to facilitate early detection and treatment.
Symptoms for Type 1 diabetes include constant need to urinate, thirst, constant hunger, vision changes, fatigue, and weight loss. These symptoms can occur suddenly.
Symptoms for type 2 diabetes are similar to the symptoms of type 1 diabetes but are in various situations less marked. Because of this, the disease might not be diagnosed right at the beginning, often a few years after its onset. This leads to complications that have arisen in the body already. For this reason, it is essential to be aware of the disease, its risks, and its prevention.
Over time, diabetes damages the eyes, heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves.
- Adults with diabetes have a three-fold increase in the risk of heart diseases, attacks, and strokes.
- Reduced blood flow, neuropathy, nerve damage in feet, increased chance of foot ulcers, infections, and a potential need for limb amputation.
- Diabetic retinopathy can also cause blindness, resulting in long-term damage to small blood vessels in one’s retina. The health concern is the reason behind 2.6% of global blindness.
- Diabetes is also one of the leading causes of kidney failure.
Access To Diabetes Care: If Not Now, When?
The theme for World Diabetes Day 2021-2023 is “Access to diabetes care: If not now, when?”.
This year, 100 years have passed since the discovery of insulin, with millions worldwide suffering from diabetes not getting the care they need to regulate and manage the health issue. People with diabetes require constant care and support to manage their health condition and avoid any kind of complication.
This year, as we celebrate the centenary of the discovery of insulin, we are presented with a unique opportunity to bring meaningful changes for over 450 million people living with diabetes and millions of others at risk.
The campaign for World Diabetes Day 2021 is represented by the Blue Circle logo, which was adopted back in 2007 after a resolution was passed in the United Nations on diabetes. The Blue Circle is a global symbol for raising diabetes awareness. The Blue Circle logo is symbolic of uniting communities globally suffering from diabetes in response to the diabetes epidemic.
How can you be involved?
- Pledge your support to greater access to diabetes care by various global healthcare organizations.
- Engage in conversations with local or national policymakers to ensure people with diabetes have the right access to care and treatment they need.
- Organize events to educate people about diabetes around you, your communities, workplaces, schools, etc.
- Organize a small gathering and include more and more people to take the local diabetes awareness walk around local communities
- Light up your home in blue
- Put out printouts of the symbol - Blue Circle
- Arrange activities and dinners/lunches with your loved ones and colleagues
Over 450 million adults are living with diabetes today. The total number of people living with diabetes is expected to rise above 570 million by 2030. Every single adult in two adults with diabetes can remain undiagnosed, most of whom have type 2 diabetes.
This World Diabetes Day 2021, pledge to save your loved ones, pledge to raise awareness, pledge to increase access to the proper healthcare in this fight against diabetes.
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