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Apr 7, 2016

World Health Organization Focuses on Diabetes

In 2015, health expenditure for diabetes in the Americas was estimated at three hundred and eighty-two billion dollars and that staggering figure will increase to around four hundred and forty-five billion by 2040. Today, in celebration of World Health Day, the World Health Organization is focusing on diabetes under the theme: Step Up; Beat Diabetes. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. It has readily become an important public health problem as one of the four major non-communicable diseases. Globally, a whopping four hundred and twenty-two million adults are living with diabetes—a number that has quadrupled in three decades. In 2012, it was the cause for one point five million deaths and statistics show that it has contributed to an even larger number of cardiovascular deaths and renal failure.


Dr. Luis Roberto Escoto, Country Representative, PAHO/WHO

Dr. Luis Roberto Escoto

“Today, the pan American Health Organization is reporting that one in twelve persons, some sixty-two million people, live with diabetes in the Americas. The number has tripled since 1980 and diabetes is currently the fourth leading cause of death in our hemisphere and more than half a million people died from it each year.”


National capacity to prevent and control diabetes as assessed in the 2015 NCD Country Capacity Survey varies depending on the region and the country-income level. In Belize, diabetes and obesity are most prevalent, says Director of Health Services Doctor Marvin Manzanero, who spoke on the epidemiological profile of the country.


Dr. Marvin Manzanero

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services

“The last CAM-D study done in 2012 says that we have a thirteen point seven percent prevalence rate; however, our data that we are collecting routinely and passively suggests that we might be having much higher numbers than that. The Caribbean region is primarily affected; we are having estimates that by 2030, Latin American/Caribbean region would have had a one hundred and forty-two percent increase in total numbers from what we had just sixteen years ago, in the year 2000, so that is why it remains a concern for us. Perhaps more importantly is that all the complications that can arise as a result of diabetes…primarily it is one of the leading causes of blindness in Belize; it is one of the primary contributors to kidney failure…the amount of hemo-dialysis that we get done and people needing hemo-dialysis increasing exponentially. And it is a primary reason why people also develop cardiac dysfunctions or strokes and entities such as that. So it has much more than the simple diabetes as we normally know it.”


Diabetes is a leading cause of visual impairment and blindness. Known as diabetic retinopathy, it is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. It’s a trend frightening reality because this type of blindness cannot be reversed and it has been affecting children.


Carla Ayres Musa, Executive Director, BCVI

Carla Ayres Musa

“Increasingly we have found that younger people are coming into our clinics with symptoms of diabetic retinopathy with visual loss, reduced vision who don’t even necessarily know that they are diabetic. And one of our visiting ophthalmologists, who comes very frequently, noticed this trend the first week that he was in the clinic. And he said I’ve been here for three days and I have diagnosed seven people with diabetic retinopathy who did not even know that they were diabetic. So we felt that it was very important to come together and increase our efforts because we have always provide services to persons who have visual reduction due to diabetes. But we thought it was more important to look at the prevention aspect of it. So with the help from Lion’s locally and internationally, as well as the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, we were able to develop a national screening and treatment program. So we are looking at educating the public on the dangers to your vision on uncontrolled diabetes; we are also looking at screening newly diagnosed diabetics or people who have not had a diabetic eye exam and then providing treatment for those where we can because unfortunately, once your vision is loss to diabetic retinopathy, you cannot regain it.”


Cutting down on sugar, starches and salt you eat and drinking unsweetened beverages and sodas as well as natural juices or water are some of the basic lifestyle changes that can be made. NARCIE Director Doctor Candy Armstrong spoke on interventions that can be taken from a Ministry of Education point of view.


Carla Ayres Musa

The majority of our children and young people are in schools and the time where we can influence the most change is when they are at a younger age. And so there is a lot of responsibility and focus to try to do early interventions, early education, early sensitization, support at an early age so that these things do not become habits that would be detrimental to their health.”


Dr. Marvin Manzanero

“We are even embarking on a nation-wide screening process of public servants. We have done PG and Independence and we are going to go across the country; Ministry of Health in tandem with the Ministry of Public Service trying to see how we can detect in an early phase, diabetes and hypertension, so that we can also do some levels of interventions there.”


The theme for World Health Day is “Step Up; Beat Diabetes.” Duane Moody for News Five.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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