With approximately 150,000 persons in Jamaica reportedly living with diabetes, and projections for further increase in incidence of the disease, Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for St. Catherine, Dr. Sandra Knight, is imploring Jamaicans to pursue healthy lifestyle changes to prevent or, effectively, manage the disease.
Speaking at a JIS Think Tank on Thursday (November 5), to highlight the activities for National Diabetes Week, November 9-15, Dr. Knight also appealed to persons living with diabetes to become more disciplined in the management of the disease, and to actively seek after information.
“We would like to encourage persons who are diabetics to get informed; go and read on your illness. We all need to be proactive about our health, not when we are approaching mid-life but we have to be proactive as young adults and as teenagers,” said Dr. Knight, who is also President of the Jamaica Midlife Health Facility
“We have to teach our children how to adopt strategies to prevent the disease,” she pointed out.
Executive Chairman of the Diabetes Association of Jamaica, Lurlene Less, addressing a JIS Think Tank on Thursday, November 5 to highlight activities planned for the 2009 National Diabetes Week, which will be observed November 9-15.
Citing the 2008 Jamaica Healthy Lifestyle Survey, she noted that diabetes is the third leading cause of death in Jamaica. Treating the disease and its complications is said to be costing both individuals and the government, combined, substantially. Last year, the government spent US$170 million on the treatment of chronic diseases, including diabetes.
Almost 84.4 % of the population is said to have at least one risk factor, and 64% is overweight, one of the main risk factors for diabetes.
Bemoaning the less than encouraging statistics, Dr. Knight expressed her dismay at the reluctance of many persons to be screened.
“Diabetes is one of the diseases considered a silent killer. It is not something that you see or feel,” she cautioned.
“Because it usually affects the older population (40 to 65 age group), some persons are led to believe that it is a natural part of the aging process. That is not so: Diabetes and aging are not synonymous, you don’t have to get diabetes nor hypertension, once you get older. It is something that you can prevent, but once you get it, then the prevention strategy goes through the door,” she explained.
Executive Chairman of the Diabetes Association of Jamaica (DAJ), Lurlene Less, is commending the Government for providing diabetes medication in the public health system, at no cost. She noted that this has enabled significant progress in the ability of many diabetics to manage the disease.
She also observed that, in order to ensure increased access to the services offered by the DAJ and to ultimately reduce the mortality rate of diabetics in Jamaica, the organisation has strengthened its public education outreach to include communities and schools.
“We want to urge communities to get out and utilise the services. Once people are diagnosed, we need them to get to the relevant health centres and get checked,” she advised.
The Southern Region of the Ministry of Health and the Diabetes Association of Jamaica will be staging a number of activities to mark National Diabetes Week. On Sunday, November 8, a National Church Service will be held at the Mandeville Baptist Church, Manchester, starting at 8:00 a.m.
On Monday, November 9, the team will head to the Kingston Technical High School, Hanover Street, for an all day visit, where they will speak about diabetes-related issues. They will also be taking the Body Mass Index of students.
The next stop will be at the Holy Trinity High School, downtown Kingston, on Tuesday, November 10 at Noon. Students of McIntosh Primary School and Decarteret College will participate in an engaging education talk and rap session, dubbed “Beat it”, on Thursday, November 12. The final visit will take place on Friday, November 13, at the Wolmer’s High School for Girls, Marescaux Road, Kingston 12 Noon to 2 p.m.
Two Public Lectures will be held at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) on Monday, November 9, and Thursday, November 12, at 2:00 p.m. The title of the sessions will be “Managing Your Sugar Intake” and “Is it your Health: What are you doing about it?”, respectively.
On World Diabetes Day, Saturday, November 14, a seminar will be held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston. The theme will be “Diabetes and Foot Care”, and will feature presentations from leading medical professionals including Dr. Suzette Clements, a Podiatrist of Decatur Georgia, in the United States.