The rising incidence of diabetes has become a cause for concern in many countries, including Nigeria. The World Health Organisation (WHO), in a bid to draw global attention to the disease, aptly chose the theme: “Beat diabetes: Scale up prevention, strengthen care and enhance surveillance,” to mark this year’s World Health Day (WHD).
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has also released gory statistics on the prevalence of the disease in the country. According to the association, there are more than 1.56 million diabetics in Nigeria, which amounts to a national prevalence of 1.9 per cent.
The doctors association lamented that the inequalities in availability, affordability and accessibility of efficient and effective healthcare delivery in the country led to the death of over 40,000 Nigerians from the condition in 2015. It also revealed that about one million Nigerians have the disease but are yet to be diagnosed and treated, while about 3.85 million people have impaired glucose tolerance—a pre-diabetic condition.
Globally, the latest data from WHO indicate that the number of adults living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980, to 422 million. The health agency identified overweight and obesity among the factors driving the dramatic rise of the disease, which killed 1.5 million persons in 2012 alone. It also predicted that diabetes will become the seventh leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030. It has also been estimated that the total deaths from diabetes will rise by more than 50 per cent in the next 10 years. The complications of the disease can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation.
The WHO also used the occasion of this year’s WHD to call for more action on the disease. It drew attention to the need to step up prevention and treatment strategies to reduce its high mortality statistics. The organisation urged governments to provide health systems that can diagnose, treat and care for people with the condition, even as they strive to ensure that their citizens adopt healthy lifestyle choices. It enjoined individuals to eat healthily, be physically active and avoid excessive weight gain.
Nigeria’s health authorities should be worried about the country’s staggering diabetes statistics and come up with far-reaching measures to combat the menace. This is the time for them to embark on massive public enlightenment on the disease. The public should be educated on its causes and symptoms, as well as how to access treatment. There is the need to embark on massive testing and diagnosis of the condition at health centres throughout the country. Nigerians should also modify their lifestyle. They should avoid sedentary living and engage in physical activities. Eating a balanced diet and avoiding excessive weight gain and obesity will help to ward off the disease. Above all, members of the public should cultivate the habit of having regular medical check-ups, so that those with the condition can be diagnosed and advised on treatment options.
We commend WHO and NMA for raising awareness on this disease and urge them to do more to reduce it. Let other relevant professional bodies in the health sector emulate these two organisations and try to educate people within their spheres on the rampaging disease. It is by so doing that the scourge can be tamed. More efforts should also be made by the government to support the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Above all, all tiers of government should work in concert to tackle the diabetes challenge. They should take our healthcare delivery system more seriously and adequately fund it to reduce the high incidence of the debilitating condition.