Feature
Director of Non-Communicable Diseases and Injuries Prevention, Minstry of Health, Dr. Tamu Davidson, points to a health promotion flyer during a recent interview with JIS News at her New Kingston offices.
Photo: Michael Sloley

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Health is appealing for more Jamaicans to get tested for diabetes, which currently affects over 236,200 citizens.
  • Speaking in an interview with JIS News, Director of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and Injuries Prevention, Dr. Tamu Davidson, says a 2016/17 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey shows that four out of 10 persons with diabetes were unaware that they had the disease.
  • “It points to the need for persons to get their health checks and to emphasise that in diabetes there are no symptoms in the early stages,” she points out.

The Ministry of Health is appealing for more Jamaicans to get tested for diabetes, which currently affects over 236,200 citizens.

Speaking in an interview with JIS News, Director of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and Injuries Prevention, Dr. Tamu Davidson, says a 2016/17 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey shows that four out of 10 persons with diabetes were unaware that they had the disease.

“It points to the need for persons to get their health checks and to emphasise that in diabetes there are no symptoms in the early stages,” she points out.

“Persons can get screened at health centres,” she says, noting that counselling and treatment are provided for those who test positive.

Diabetes is a chronic or lifelong disease, in which the body fails to make insulin or to properly use the insulin that it makes. Insulin is a hormone needed by the body to change food into glucose, which is used by the cells for energy.

Without careful management, diabetes can lead to a buildup of sugar in the blood, which can increase the risk of dangerous complications such as stroke and heart disease.

Director of Non-Communicable Diseases and Injuries Prevention, Dr. Tamu Davidson, displays pamplets on diabetes prevention and management, during a recent JIS News interview.

 

There are three main types of diabetes – Type 1, also known as juvenile diabetes, in which people are insulin-dependent, which means they must take artificial insulin daily to stay alive; Type 2 diabetes, when the body is unable to make enough insulin, or cannot properly use the insulin it makes; and Gestational diabetes, which affects some women during pregnancy, due to the body not being able to use insulin properly.

Dr. Davidson says that diabetes is regarded as the most common NCD. She notes that the disease “affects almost every system in the body”, and if the condition goes untreated or is not properly managed, persons are at risk of blindness, amputation of limbs, heart problems, stroke, among myriad other complications.

As such, she says it is important that persons be diagnosed before they start showing symptoms and that those confirmed with the condition access care immediately.

“We are encouraging persons to get an annual checkup. Know your blood pressure, blood glucose, body mass index (BMI); it will tell you whether you are overweight, or your obesity range,” Dr. Davidson urges.

“You can take control, if you get diagnosed early, at the stage where you have no symptoms. Diabetes can be managed very well,” she adds.

Dr. Davidson tells JIS News that 90 per cent of persons with the disease have the Type 2 condition, which typically occurs in persons 40 years and over.

She notes that obesity is a major risk factor, in addition to alcohol and tobacco use, and consuming too much sugary or sweetened items.

“So your nutrition and physical activity are two things that we need to address,” she points out.

As such, she says that the Ministry’s focus is first on prevention, through promoting a healthy lifestyle involving a balanced diet and regular physical activity.

For persons with the condition, healthy diet and exercise are recommended along with regular medical checks and medication prescribed by a doctor.

“We promote a holistic approach towards treatment… . Our main target is to get the ailment under control,” Dr. Davidson says.

She is also urging persons to take advantage of the drug subsidy offered through the National Health Fund (NHF).

The NHF also provides a free glucometer or an insulin pen to persons with the disease. The glucometer measures the concentration of glucose in the blood, while the insulin pen is used to deliver the insulin dose.

The Ministry of Health partners in the staging of the annual Camp Yellow Bird, which caters for children with Type 1 diabetes and empowers teachers and parents in the management of the disease.

The Ministry also observes World No Diabetes Day on November 14 each year to raise awareness about the disease.