“Diabetes Tsunami” – Jamaica Observer

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A One of Jamaica’s top epidemiologists, Dr Julia Rowe Porter, says that with data showing that more than half of Jamaicans are overweight and obese, the island is “prepared for a tsunami of diabetes” that will sweep the present and future generations.

“Our statistics are going in the wrong direction, and we want to make sure that the message gets through, not only to the general population, but we want the messages to relate to and come from our children as well. Our statistics show that our children and adolescents are increasingly affected by diabetes,” Dr. Rowe Porter told reporters and editors this week Jamaica Observers Monday Exchange.

According to Dr. Rowe Porter, health officials flag the disease as “a major public health concern” in November, which is observed as Diabetes Awareness Month.

Exploring risk factors for the general population and children with type 2 diabetes, which is the most common, Rowe Porter said 54% of Jamaicans are overweight and obese, while more than 70% have no insufficient resources to access safe, adequate services and nutritious food; and four in five or 82 percent report low levels of physical activity.

Family physician Dr Jacqueline Campbell (left) talks about the effects of diabetes during this week’s Jamaica Observers’ Monday Exchange. Also pictured are epidemiologist Dr Julia Rowe Porter (cenytre) and Jessica Forrester, a diabetes patient. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

“Among our adolescents, aged 13 to 15 – according to the Global School Health Survey – we fear that 68% of our adolescents are obese and these figures have doubled in the last seven years. We fear that our teenagers are drinking significant amounts of sugary drinks, which is a significant risk factor for overweight and obesity,” said Rowe Porter, who works in the Non-Communicable Disease and Injury Prevention Unit of the Department of Health and Welfare.

“Three out of four teenagers consume one or more sugary drinks a day, while a quarter of them are physically inactive and a quarter of them eat fast food three or more days a week”, a- she declared.

“So with data like this, Jamaica is being set up for a tsunami of diabetes not just in this generation, but it’s going to get worse in our generations to come, and we’re concerned that the people haven’t gotten that message. If they do, ‘If we don’t get it, our stats will be worse in the years to come,'” she said.

Statistics from the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey 2016/2017 show that 12% of Jamaicans aged 15 and over are living with diabetes, a prevalence that increases with age and makes women more affected than men. Diabetes is the second leading cause of death in Jamaica and the leading cause of death in women and the third in men.

“Why is this such a big problem? Why does it cause so many deaths is because when blood sugar levels go out of control for long periods of time, complications arise – nerve damage, eye damage, kidney damage, heart disease , and we are concerned about premature death. Not just for those who are old, but those who are in their productive years and under 70 are dying,” Rowe Porter pointed out.

“So this is a major impact on individuals, and friends, families are affected, and it also puts a significant strain on our public health system because we have over 200,000 people with diabetes who need treatment and several have complications that result in hospitalization and death,” Rowe Porter said.

“Furthermore, we are concerned that many people do not know their status. Among people with diabetes in the last health and lifestyle survey, 40% did not know it. If we catch it late, they are more likely to have complications,” he added. she added.

In the meantime, Dr Rowe Porter pointed out that while health officials were grateful that around 93% of people with diabetes were on treatment, there was still dismay that “only a quarter of they are controlled, which means that the majority is not controlled”. .

Family physician Dr. Jacqueline Campbell, also a guest at the Monday Exchangecalled the statistics “alarming”.

“I’m a family doctor and I see this happening literally every day, and it’s not something new; it’s something that’s been happening for a number of years and it’s getting worse,” a- she declared.

“As Dr Rowe Porter said, it’s not just older people but younger people, and we really need to think about the fact that this disease is complicated, which means it’s difficult to treat frequently, and not only that, there are many complications,” she said.

“So if you have a young person who develops diabetes, think about the lifespan of that person. This person will have to live longer with complications and we will put a greater strain on the person’s resources and on the health care system in general.

“I believe the key to this is education. A lot of people come into the practice and all they can say is ‘I’ve got sugar and I’m on pills’. They don’t know why. they take the pills and how they should take them, so they need a lot of training to hold them accountable,” Dr Campbell said.

Diabetes Awareness Month is celebrated under the theme “Education: Protecting Tomorrow”.

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