Presently, many Nigerians are believed to be living with diabetes. But that is not the main problem. The challenge is that most of them are without adequate healthcare and the awareness needed to stay healthy a situation that has led to many avoidable deaths.
In a report by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, diabetes happens when blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is the main source of energy for the body and comes from food consumed. Insulin, a hormone generated by the pancreas which helps in converting the glucose to useable energy by the body cells, is a catalyst in this process. However, in some cases, the body does not make enough or, at worst, any insulin at all to perform this function resulting in excess glucose in the body which leads to diabetes.
In 2007, the United Nations’ General Assembly adopted resolution 61/225 that set aside 14 November as World Diabetes Day to draw attention to this debilitating disease. For this year, the world body chose as theme: ‘Access To Diabetes Care: If Not Now, When?’ to arouse the consciousness of all to the urgent need to enhance access to health care for those living with the ailment.
Diabetes is reported as the main cause of stroke, kidney failure, heart attack, blindness and in some cases lower limb amputation. However, it is a disease that can be treated, managed with medication to prevent complications.
This year alone, it is estimated that of 537 million adults between 20 and 79 years, 1 in 10 are living with the disease. It has been projected that this number will increase to 643 million by 2030 and 784 million by 2045. The report reveals that more than 4 in 5 (81 per cent) adults with diabetes reside in low- and middle-income countries, pointing to diabetes as cause of 6.7 million deaths in 2021 at 1 in every 5 seconds.
The report further reveals that diabetes cost at least $966 billion in health expenditure, which is a 316 per cent increase over the past 15 years. It also states that 541 million adults are suffering from Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) which puts them at high risk of type 2 diabetes.
In Nigeria, by July, 2020, there were about six million adult Nigerians living with diabetes mellitus. And this year, 2021, in Africa, 24 million people suffer from diabetes, 61 million in Europe, 73 million in Middle-east and North Africa, South East Asia 90 million, Western Pacific 206 million, South and Central America 32 million and North America and Caribbean 51 million.
Its risk factors are not certain. However, having a parent with the disease or a brother or sister increases the chances of one having the disease. Type 1 diabetes can be developed at any age but most likely in childhood, teen years or as a young adult. It presently has no form of prevention.
For type 2, according to experts, people are at risk if they have pre- diabetes characteristics like being overweight, are 45 years or above, have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes, are physically active less than 3 times a week among others. With type 2 diabetes, it is preventable and also can be delayed through lifestyle changes.
In terms of gestational diabetes, people are at risk if pregnant and had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, gave birth to a baby who weighed over 9 pounds, are overweight or above 25 years old, have a family history of type 2 diabetes, have a hormone disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) among others. Gestational diabetes will, most of the time, be cured after the baby is born. However, it raises risks for type 2 diabetes in future. The UN states that over the past decade the commonness of diabetes spiked in low and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.
This newspaper is of the opinion that the federal government should address the issue of inadequate healthcare for sufferers of the disease as well as create enlightenment campaign to control it.
In Nigeria, lack of access to basic care is posing a challenge where diabetes is concerned. Lack of enlightenment and correct information as regards the disease is also disturbing. Access to insulin is a challenge and when unsubsidised, it makes worse the case for most Nigerians battling with the ailment.
In our considered opinion, one effective way of combating this disease and others like it, is to put in place adequate health insurance policy that is easily affordable. This is important because the high cost of healthcare delivery in the country is giving rise to deaths that would otherwise have been prevented.
Even more urgent, in our view, is the need to intensify public enlightenment to educate the people and let them know that diabetes is not a death sentence.