It’s a family affair.
That is the status of diabetes, a scourge of the world that has invaded every sphere of life across the globe, few places more so than Barbados.
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.
“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. Of these, it is estimated that 50 per cent of them do not know that they have diabetes,” Diabetes Association of Barbados president, Trudy Griffith noted last week.
Griffith’s observation came as she delivered remarks last Tuesday during the Association’s annual John Grace Memorial Lecture at Solidarity House, Harmony Hall, St Michael. That legacy lecture in the name of a co-founder of the Association preceded World Diabetes Day that is to be observed Thursday. The theme of the Thursday observance is The Family and Diabetes… Protect the Family.
“Diabetes affects everyone and the fundamental societal unit bears the brunt of the disease, the family,” she said. “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.” 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.
“Diabetes concerns every family in every setting and we need to now, more than ever, seek to address this threat against the family.”
Of the 425 million sufferers around the world, IDF states, “most of these cases are type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable through regular physical activity, a healthy and balanced diet, and the promotion of healthy living environments. Families have a key role to play in addressing the modifiable risk factors for type 2 diabetes and must be provided with the education, resources and environments to live a healthy lifestyle”.
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 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.
As this newspaper observed on World Diabetes Day 2018, there is a strong likelihood that a large percentage of those at the pre-diabetic stage have gone over to becoming full-blown diabetics. So, in the absence of new studies, Barbadians will be approaching World Diabetes Day 2019 – described as the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign – knowing that this disease is all around and the odds are that at least one in every five persons over age 25 they meet is afflicted.