A week ahead of the World Health Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted the need for countries in the south-east Asia region to take vigorous and concerted action to prevent, treat and beat diabetes. The potentially fatal disease has reached epidemic proportions and is expected to spread further in the coming years.
WHO observes the World Health Day on April 7 every year. The south-east Asia region comprises the following 11 member states – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
According to a statement issued by Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for south-east Asia, “Diabetes rarely makes headlines. Yet, it will be the world’s seventh largest killer by 2030, unless intense and focused efforts are made by the governments, communities and individuals.”
“Diabetes is of particular concern in this region. One of every four of the 3.7 million diabetes-related deaths globally take place in this region. Such high prevalence exacerbates difficulties in control of other major infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis. Almost half of the 96 million people suffering from the disease don’t know they have it. If prevalence of diabetes continues to rise, personal, social and economic consequences will be heightened,” she added.
The statement also mentioned that this year, the focus of the World Health Day was on diabetes and called for scaling up of 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.
It added that sedentary lifestyle, coupled with sugary, salty and fatty diets rich in refined carbohydrates, is driving the epidemic and affecting primarily those in their productive prime.
Nearly 90% of all diabetes cases are Type 2, largely the result of excess body weight 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.
Talking to dna, Dr Manoj Chawla, diabetologist at the Asian Heart Institute said, “This is the right time. Its a welcome move by WHO this year. According to International Diabetes Federation, of the 69.2 million people suffering from diabetes across the world, 415 million were in India. It is high time, people maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
Regular exercise – 30 minutes daily and at least five times a week – is necessary for adults to control weight. Governments must regulate marketing of food to children, and insist on accurate food labeling to help consumers make decisions that can help them avoid diabetes, said experts.