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The Ministry of Health and Environment is observing National Diabetes Week from November 9 to 14 with focus on diabetes in children and adolescents.
Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, in a message read by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Grace Allen-Young at the official launch yesterday (Nov. 10) at the Ministry’s downtown Kingston office, said that the emphasis is in keeping with a two-year global campaign, which commenced on November 14, 2007, to increase awareness about the condition in children and adolescents.
He said that diabetes has a major impact on children’s lives as they need to monitor their blood glucose levels on a daily basis, take medications, and learn to balance food and physical activity.
“It can also interfere with the normal developmental tasks of childhood and adolescence, which include succeeding in school and transition into adulthood. In young children, frequent episodes of very low blood sugar may result in brain abnormalities and impaired cognitive functions,” Mr. Spencer said.
He said that the Ministry is taking a proactive approach to educating all children and their families about healthy food options and the importance of daily exercise, through various healthy lifestyle initiatives in schools and communities.
The Minister also urged parents, guardians and caregivers to “arm themselves with the facts.”
“This is the best ammunition to fight the scourge of chronic diseases in Jamaica and by extension, the Caribbean region. You must make every effort to encourage healthy habits, know the warning signs of diabetes and take the necessary steps to prevent same,” Mr. Spencer said.
In Jamaica, chronic non-communicable diseases including diabetes, account for at least 50 per cent of deaths and are estimated to cost the health sector US$170 million this year.
Meanwhile, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eva Lewis-Fuller, informed that data from a survey done in 2002 showed that eight per cent of the population had diabetes.
“When you rank the causes of death, the 2002 data showed that diabetes ranked fourth as one of the major causes of death with a prevalence rate of somewhere about 56 per 100,000 population. Among adolescents15 to 19, the prevalence is about two per cent, which is significant,” Dr. Lewis- Fuller said.
According to the International Diabetes Federation more than 70,000 children under the age of 15 are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and this is increasing at a rate of three per cent each year among children and even faster in pre-school children at a rate of five per cent each year.
Some of the activities planned for National Diabetes Week include the launch of the National Guidelines for the Management of Diabetes and Hypertension; observance of Diabetes Day at the Windward Road Health Centre; school sessions in the parishes of St. Ann, Portland and St Mary; and the hosting of a health expo on the May Pen Hospital grounds.