Urgent efforts needed to stem diabetes epidemic: WHO

Mumbai: Countries in the South-East Asian Region must take vigorous and concerted action to prevent, treat and beat diabetes, a potentially fatal disease that has reached epidemic proportions and is expected to further rise in coming years, World Health Organisation (WHO) today said.

“Diabetes rarely makes headlines, and yet it will be the world’s seventh largest killer by 2030 unless intense and focused efforts are made by governments, communities and individuals,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Director for South- East Asia, said ahead of World Health Day on April 7.

World Health Day this year focuses on diabetes and calls for scaling up efforts to prevent, care for and detect the disease to arrest the global epidemic which is hitting the low and middle income countries the most.

Khetrapal said, “Diabetes is of particular concern in the Region. More than one out of every four of the 3.7 million diabetes-related deaths globally occur in the Region. Almost half of the 96 million people suffering the disease don’t know they have it. If diabetes prevalence continues to rise, the personal, social and economic consequences will deepen.”

South-East Asia consists of 11 countries of impressive diversity in religion, culture and history: Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It is also one of the most dynamic areas of the world economically, a factor which largely accounts for its growing international significance.

Sedentary lifestyles coupled with sugary, salty and fatty diets rich in refined carbohydrates are driving the epidemic, which in the Region affects primarily those in their productive prime, she said.

Nearly 90 per cent of all diabetes cases are of Type 2, largely the result of excess bodyweight and physical inactivity. It is both preventable and treatable if detected early. If not properly managed the disease causes serious damage to every major organ in the body, resulting in heart attacks, strokes, blindness and nerve damage, she added.