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National diabetes plan is a must

Diabetes advocacy and awareness engaged millions of people on World Diabetes Day, celebrated worldwide yesterday.This special day dedicated to diabetes was set up in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organisation in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat that diabetes now poses. It became an official United Nations Day in 2007.

The benefits of a structured plan will definitely ease the personal, family and societal burden of diabetes
- Chris J. Delicata

The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public spotlight. This year is part of a five-year campaign that will address the growing need for diabetes education and prevention programmes.

World Diabetes Day is celebrated specifically on November 14 to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, first conceived the idea that led to the discovery of insulin in 1922.

Several activities and initiatives were celebrated worldwide by the over 200 member associations of the International Diabetes Federation in more than 160 countries and territories, all member states of the United Nations and by other associations and organisations, companies, healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes and their families.

The World Diabetes Day logo is the blue circle – the global symbol for diabetes that was developed as part of the Unite for Diabetes awareness campaign. The logo was adopted in 2007 to mark the passage of the United Nations World Diabetes Day resolution.

The significance of the blue circle symbol is overwhelmingly positive. Across cultures, the circle symbolizes life and health. The colour blue reflects the sky that unites all nations and is the colour of the United Nations flag. The blue circle signifies the unity of the global diabetes community in response to the diabetes pandemic.

The World Diabetes Day 2012 campaign links the urgent need for action to the protection of the health of our future generations. Particular focus is being made to highlight the importance of education – for health professionals, people with diabetes and people at risk – in reducing the impact of diabetes throughout the world.

The campaign aims to educate, engage and empower youth and the public on diabetes.

Diabetes Education And Prevention is the World Diabetes Day theme for the period 2009-2013. The campaign goals are to:

•Encourage governments to implement and strengthen policies for the prevention and control of diabetes and its complications.

•Disseminate tools to support national and local initiatives for the prevention and management of diabetes and its complications.

•Illustrate the importance of evidence-based education in the prevention and management of diabetes and its complications.

•Raise awareness on the warning signs of diabetes and promote action to encourage early diagnosis.

•Raise awareness on and promote action to reduce the main modifiable risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

•Raise awareness and promote action to prevent or delay the complications of diabetes.

Diabetes, often referred to as the silent killer, is a chronic condition and leading non communicable disease that cannot be underestimated or ignored. The diabetes epidemic continues to worsen. Data from recent global studies demonstrates that the number of people with diabetes in 2011 has reached a staggering 366 million, claiming the lives of 4.6 million persons due to diabetes – one every seven seconds.

Diabetes is among the top 10 causes of disability, resulting in life-threatening complications such as heart disease, stroke, lower limb amputations and blindness. Half of those with diabetes are undiagnosed. The healthcare spending on diabetes has also reached the exorbitant figure of $465 billion.

Malta is no exception and one person out of 10 people has diabetes. We need to act on diabetes. The Maltese Government is committed to fighting the diabetes epidemic.

The Government should be commended for all its endeavours and efforts in its fight to tackle non-communicable diseases, notably diabetes.

The health authorities, through the Ministry of Health, the Elderly and Community Care, have already issued a strategy for the prevention and control of non communicable diseases, which also includes diabetes. Malta now has a strategic vision on how it intends to tackle non-communicable diseases. This is indeed very promising and essential.

However, we now need to concentrate our efforts to have a national diabetes plan for Malta, a focused and tailor-made programme for the management and treatment of diabetes. The benefits of a structured plan will definitely ease the personal, family and societal burden of diabetes. Such a plan cannot be delayed and should be introduced in the shortest time possible.

The global message this year is to promote awareness on diabetes by manifesting the blue colour that symbolises unity for diabetes. We can all make our contribution in a very modest but significant way.

We can also play our part in encouraging family members or close friends who have a family history of diabetes or who are at a high risk of getting diabetes to take the first step and get tested.

It’s never too late to get checked; the sooner the better. If one manages one’s diabetes well, keeps the sugar levels well under control and undergoes regular checkups, then one could lead and live a normal life.

Let us all do our part in raising awareness on diabetes. We should collectively ensure that World Diabetes Day is not just another commemorative day but an opportunity that would serve as a turning point in the lives of many who would realize that it’s time to act on diabetes. As the saying goes: prevention is better than cure.

www.idf.org

Chris J. Delicata is vice president-elect of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF Global).

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