JIS News

As part of World Diabetes Day, which is observed on November 14 each year, the Diabetes Association of Jamaica today (Nov. 14) held a one-day symposium at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, in Montego Bay. Held under the theme ‘Diabetes and Foot Care – Time to Act’ the event saw participation from more than 150 health care officials from across the island, inclusive of doctors, nurses and community health aides.
November 14 is observed as World Diabetes Day as it is the birth date of Sir Fredrick Bantin, who in 1921 discovered insulin as a treatment for diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or sugar), which the body uses for energy and the pancreas makes insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When a person has diabetes, their body either does not make enough insulin or is unable to use its own insulin as well as it should and this, in turn causes sugar to build up in the blood.
In an interview with JIS News, Executive Director of the Diabetes Association of Jamaica outreach programme, Owen Bernard, said the staging of the one day symposium and exhibition was just one aspect of the educational programme that his organization had implemented, and was aimed at heightening the awareness of the general public.
Mr. Bernard quoted some statistics which highlighted the importance of proper care for diabetics. “As we speak, it has been reported by the International Diabetes Federation (IBF) that every 30 seconds a lower limb is lost as a result of diabetes complications, and a lot of this amputation could be prevented with early detection,” he pointed out.
He said that as a conservative estimate over 300,000 persons in Jamaica 15 years and older are afflicted by Diabetes. “The saddest thing is that half of them do not know that they have diabetes, and these are the people we need to reach”, he said.
Mr. Bernard said that it was the long term plan of his organization to establish a branch office in each parish where its continuous screening and treatment programmes could be carried out. He expressed commendation for the government’s health insurance programme, the National Health Fund, for its inclusion of diabetics in the Fund’s programme.
Professor Errol Morrison, in his presentation addressed the topic ‘The ravages of Diabetes and the Implication of Cost’. He said that to highlight the seriousness of the disease, it must be noted that worldwide it affected approximately 200 million persons. “Every year, apart from the nearly five million who go blind, one and a half million persons lose a leg, and as the data will tell you every 30 seconds someone is losing a foot or a limb as a result of diabetes,” he said.
He pointed out that the Caribbean region had one of the highest incidences of the disease, and emphasized the importance of proper diet and exercise to ward off or fight the occurrence of diabetes.
Other presenters at the symposium included Lecturer in the Department of Medicine at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr. Rosemarie Wright-Pascoe who spoke on the ‘Epidemiology and Pathophysiology of Diabetes’; Dr. Hilary Brown of the University of Pennsylvania, who addressed the topic of ‘Surgical Complications of Diabetes’; Dr. Al Bailey who addressed the topic, ‘Managing Diabetes’; and Consultant Cardiologist Dr. M. Lawrence-Wright, who spoke on ‘Diabetes and Heart Diseases’.