Over 300,000 Jamaicans Suffer from Diabetes


There has been an increase in the incidence of diabetes in Jamaica, with over 300,000 persons living with the disease.
However, almost half of the number are undiagnosed, Owen Bernard, Executive Director of the Diabetes Association of Jamaica’s (DAJ) Outreach Programme has told JIS News.
He said that the disease was not only on the rise in Jamaica, as more than 20 million Americans were living with diabetes and the figure was expected to double by 2025.
“We really need to update the figures relating to persons living with diabetes in Jamaica. As it is, the figures are high, however we need to know what we are dealing with,” Mr. Bernard stated.
Most troubling is the increase in the number of children getting the disease, as seen in the burgeoning in the number of youngsters attending and requesting to attend Camp Yellow Bird, an annual summer programme for children and adolescents with diabetes.
Contributing to the steady rise in the cases of diabetes is the prevalence of obesity, which health officials have attributed in part to the heavy proliferation of fast food establishments, and the fact that Jamaicans have adopted a sedentary lifestyle, where exercise is minimal or non-existent.
“We definitely have to change our lifestyles, which means moving away from a sedentary lifestyle. We are not as active as we used to be. Advancement in technology has hindered this to a point.nobody walks anymore and, our eating habits have changed,” Mr. Bernard noted.
The Director is however encouraged by the increased awareness of Jamaicans about the chronic disease. Given the changes in diabetes education, which he said, was now taught “using simple language and symbols so that the lay person could understand,” more persons were more informed about the disease.
He also said that more persons were attending clinics hosted by the DAJ. This was especially borne out in the rural areas, where according to Mr. Bernard, persons were very enthusiastic about the education programmes regarding diabetes. He added that the education sessions were always well attended.
Commenting on the improvements in diabetic care, the Director stated that while resources were limited, Jamaica had a wealth of facilities and experts in diabetes care. “Fortunately, we have the only multi-disciplinary diabetes clinic here in the Caribbean at the DAJ on Downer Avenue. It is a one stop shop,” he pointed out. Meanwhile, National Diabetes Week will be observed from November 14 to 20 under the theme, ‘Fight Obesity: Prevent Diabetes’. Activities for the week will embrace Jamaicans of all ages, and also focus on all areas that relate to diabetes care and management.
The week will commence with a church service at the Church of God of Prophecy at 7 Spaulding Lane, Kingston 5 on Sunday, November 14, which will be observed internationally as World Diabetes Day. Health officials will also be on hand to provide diabetes screening and education.
On November 15, the focus will be on dialysis, and on that day, the DAJ will identify a few patients, who are in desperate need of the procedure and facilitate them through sponsorship.
The issue of good nutrition in the prevention of diabetes will be tackled on November 16. The radio station, KLAS FM, will facilitate a live broadcast from the DAJ at 1 Downer Avenue, Kingston 5, where persons will be able to call in and obtain information.
Attention will be placed on the youngsters on November 17, when representatives from both the Ministry of Health and DAJ will visit two schools: Holy Trinity Comprehensive High School and Papine Primary School, to give talks about the disease as well as conduct screenings.
Another highlight of the week will be the opening of a Drug Serv Pharmacy at the DAJ on November 18. In addition, the DAJ will host diabetes education sessions for its members and the general public.
As part of continuing efforts to heighten awareness about the disease, the Ministry of Health will host a public forum at its offices on King Street on November 19 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Resource person will be Violet Griffith, Programme Development Officer in the Chronic Disease Unit.
The week will culminate with a health fair on the grounds of the DAJ starting at 9:00 a.m. and will be broadcast live on HOT 102 FM.
Figures available from the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) reveal that of the 1477 persons who died from complications associated with diabetes mellitus in 2002, 927 were female.

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