KINGSTON — Have you been excessively hungry, tired or thirsty lately? Have you also been experiencing frequency of urination, blurred vision and/or unexplained weight loss?
These could very well be symptoms of the lifestyle disease, Diabetes Mellitus, which has been categorized as one of the leading causes of deaths, globally.
Termed, the ‘silent killer,’ diabetes is characterised by the presence of high levels of sugar in the blood and, if not managed properly, can be a life- threatening metabolic disorder. This usually occurs in cases where the body experiences insulin deficiency, or insulin resistance which prevents sugars from breaking down effectively.
Research by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that an estimated 300 million persons in the world are currently living with the lifestyle disease. The organisation also points to the fact that there will be an estimated increase of 67% in one generation, if interventions are not conducted to promote prevention.
Here in Jamaica, the Ministry of Health (MOH) notes that diabetes, along with other chronic non-communicable diseases, actually account for over 56% of deaths, islandwide. Importantly, the 2008 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey has indicated that diabetes is more prevalent in women aged 15-74, compared to their male counterpart.
The Diabetes Association of the Jamaica (DAJ) was established in 1976, to chart programmes and services that would encourage the primary prevention of the disease and the secondary prevention of complications associated with it.
Executive Director of the DAJ, Lurline Less, states that statistics from the ministry point to the fact there are over 12,000 children in Jamaica currently living with diabetes. She notes also that approximate 25 percent of the adult population is unaware of their diabetic condition.
"We have focused so heavily on secondary prevention, but now that we see the pressuring burden of the children, we will have to include primary prevention in our focus,” Mrs. Less told JIS News.
Mrs. Less states that the DAJ has implemented, and will be implementing, programmes in an effort to curtail the spread of the chronic non-communicable disease. This is very important, as too many persons are becoming diabetic and there are still too many diabetics unaware of their condition.
"We have a national education programme, where we empower members of communities, raise the awareness of diabetes and train key people in diabetes care," she says.
Importantly, Mrs. Less notes that the DAJ, in association with the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF), has started a programme called Life for a Child, which is geared towards encouraging healthy lifestyle habits among children.
She notes that there are currently 200 children involved in the programme, and each child is given the opportunity to receive medical supplies like insulin, syringes, blood glucose monitors and test strips free of cost.
Individuals are also able to gain access to screenings, through the many outreach programmes that the Association has undertaken.
“The entire body system is affected by diabetes, so we do screening of the eyes, the feet and the kidney, in addition to heart tests (ECG), cholesterol checks, the A1C test, blood circulation tests and body mass index (BMI) checks,” Mrs. Less explains.
She states that the A1C test is offered at no cost to children and youth up to age 24, at 6 centres, including the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), the Kingston Public, Mandeville Regional, Spanish Town, May Pen and the Bustamante Children’s hospitals.
Mrs. Less states that diabetes is a lifestyle disease that cannot be cured, but can be properly managed. She urges all Jamaicans to hone proper health and lifestyle habits, so that diabetes can be prevented, thereby maintaining a good quality of life.
She says that the agency is committed to achieving its mandate, which is to encourage primary and secondary prevention. Mrs. Less adds that the DAJ will continue to operate by the tenets of its tagline, "until there is a cure, let us give the care."
By Toni-Ann Russell, JIS Public Relation Officer