As Barbados approaches another World Diabetes Day on Nov. 17 the island is struggling to come to grips with this scourge that afflicts more than one-fifth of its population — and those are the known cases.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) states that as of 2017 some 425 million people on this planet are struck with diabetes, equating to a world average of one in 11 persons, but the prevalence rate in Barbados of one in five persons places this island way above the world average.
This above average fact for the disease caused Diabetes Association of Barbados President, Trudy Griffith, to observe, “within our daily lives we interact with persons with whom we have a biological connection, and in our workplaces, our communities and social settings … we probably interact with multiple persons who are living with diabetes.”
A Barbados ‘Health of the Nation’ study in 2015 showed that 19 per cent of persons aged 25 and older have diabetes. That almost one-in-five ratio worsens when those over 65 years old are examined separately because the affliction percentage in that age grouping is 46 per cent, meaning almost half of the nation’s elderly population has diabetes.
Figures from that study - which must be considered dated in light of the rapid growth of this affliction in Barbados — show that the number of persons with pre-diabetes, conditions in the body that set them on course to diabetes if habits are not changed, is at 14.6 per cent of the population.
There is a strong likelihood that a large percentage of those at the pre-diabetic stage have gone over to becoming full-blown diabetics.
This means that the overall odds of encountering someone over 25 years with diabetes during a stroll in downtown Bridgetown are more than one-in five.
The theme for World Diabetes Day is ‘The Family and Diabetes … Protect the Family.’
“Diabetes affects everyone, and the fundamental societal unit bears the brunt of the disease, the family,” Griffith said in the days leading to the World Diabetes Day observance.
“We have a responsibility to our families in whatever setting to ensure that they are living well. Uncontrolled diabetes is the cause of all the complications we fear and desire to avoid, which are stroke, heart attack, poor oral health, impaired circulation to the feet, amputations and renal disease,” she said.
Diabetes is also a leading cause of blindness and early death
Stressing the importance of family support Griffith, a pharmacist, pointed out that living with diabetes can be difficult, especially when it is discovered late or uncontrolled for long periods, and persons can develop complications that cause a burden on the family.
Barbados medical experts have noted that complications from diabetes cover a wide swath of issues including direct medical care, frequent illness of those affected and their inability to work, along with the time spent by loved ones caring for such persons.
A 2015 study of Latin America and the Caribbean showed a total cost of complications from diabetes to be in the range of $16 to 26 Billion.
Barbados’ share of that annual expense is somewhere between $73 and $92 million.
“Diabetes concerns every family in every setting, and we need to now, more than ever seek to address this threat against the family.”
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