Diabetes Remains A Major Health Concern In The Caribbean

(CMC) – The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) on Tuesday said that diabetes remains a major health concern in the Caribbean region, affecting millions of people and burdening healthcare systems.

In a statement to observe World Diabetes Day, CARPHA said the Caribbean has one of the highest prevalence rates of diabetes in the world, with many individuals unknowingly living with the condition.

“Factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and limited access to healthcare have contributed to this alarming rise,” CARPHA said, noting that in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that 1.5 million lives were lost to diabetes globally.

CARPHA said, alarmingly, several Caribbean countries reported the highest age-standardised death rates due to diabetes.

“The burden of diabetes is not limited to mortality; it is also a significant contributor to morbidity in the regional population. Complications from diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation,” said CARPHA executive director, Dr Joy St John.

“This disease can adversely affect both the quality and length of your life, and that of your family. If you are diabetic, following your treatment regimen and keeping your blood glucose and blood pressure under control are important to avoid serious complications of the disease,” she added.

Over the last three years, the theme for World Diabetes Day has been access to diabetes care. And this year’s campaign focuses on the importance of knowing the risk of type 2 diabetes to help delay or prevent the condition and highlighting the impact of diabetes-related complications; as well as the importance of having access to the right information and care to ensure timely treatment and management.

CARPHA said it remains on the frontlines of the regional response to diabetes and that its efforts include the update of the Diabetes Guidelines for the Management of Diabetes in Primary Care in the Caribbean, which aims to provide standardised and high-quality care for individuals with diabetes in the region.

Furthermore, the Diabetes Nutritional Management Toolkit is available to support healthcare providers in delivering consistent and evidence-based nutritional guidance, CARPHA said, adding that it has also produced a Parents’ Guide to a Healthier Child, which can be used to help reduce children’s risks associated with unhealthy weight, such as diabetes.

Head of Chronic Diseases and Injury at CARPHA, Dr Heather Armstrong, said “type 2 diabetes, the most prevalent form of diabetes, is a condition heavily influenced by lifestyle and genetic factors.

“Several factors may increase your risk of having diabetes. Some of them are under your control; others are not. The ones not under your control are called non-modifiable risk factors and include increasing age; previously having poor sugar control (pre-diabetes) diagnosed by your doctor. Other factors include having a first-degree relative (parent/brother/sister) with diabetes; and ethnicity.”

CARPHA is urging Caribbean people to get involved in physical activity, adopt a healthy diet, insisting that knowing your numbers is not just a slogan, but a life-saving practice.

“For everyone, knowing your risk for type 2 diabetes is the first step in prevention. Early detection and timely intervention can significantly reduce the risk of developing the condition. “A balanced diet, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight are effective strategies for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes,” CARPHA added.

“This World Diabetes Day, let us remember the importance of knowing your numbers, supporting those living with diabetes, and striving for a healthier Caribbean. By raising awareness and taking proactive steps, we can combat the diabetes epidemic and make strides toward a brighter and healthier future,” CARPHA said.