20% Lankans of over 20 years have diabetes | Sunday Observer

20% Lankans of over 20 years have diabetes

A diabetic epidemic is imminent, health officials have warned, going on recent studies comparing figures of two decades ago. Currently, it is the third leading cause for deaths and takes a lead place among the surge of non communicable diseases ( NCDs). According to data from the NCD Unit of the Health Ministry NCDs account for 71% of the mortality rates , followed by communicable diseases (18%) and injuries ( 11%.)

High fasting plasma glucose stands at 10.7% according to a recent study by the Global Burden of Diseases which ranked it as the second top risk factor for Sri Lanka .

The total percentage of persons having elevated plasma glucose either due to diabetes or pre-diabetes is in excess of four million, National Diabetic Centre of Sri Lanka spokesman Dr Mahen Wijesuriya told the Sunday Observer. He said, apart from the number of diabetics already detected through screening, obesity in a rising number of school going children was now a matter of concern since it could lead to early diabetes. He further noted that many adults already having diabetes were not aware they had the disease as they had yet to undergo screening. “ About 505 remain asymptomatic initially, but could later develop the disease if their sugar levels are uncontrolled”, he warned.

Health Ministry sources said that over 168 Life Style Centres had been set up islandwide to enable persons of all ages to be screened for diabetes as well as other NCDs . “ Our goal is to control and reduce NCDs including Diabetes by at least 2% annually, but the public need to give us their support”, a Ministry spokesman said. ‘ Our end goal is to have a diabetes free Sri Lanka “, he added.

National Hospital Sri Lanka ( NHSL) sources also told the Sunday Observer that a special clinic had been set up on its premises to screen obese children and offer them healthy options for food and lifestyles to avoid developing the disease at an early age.

According to the Food Division of the Health Ministry, a Schools Canteen Policy was now being implemented islandwide “ The emphasis is on healthy meals with reduced sugar and starch. We have requested all owners running school canteens to prepare alternative foods to cakes, rolls, pastries and buns, and have also got parents to be involved in the preparation of a daily menu consisting of local grams, cereals and pulses. Although most have complied, our problem is getting children to switch to these foods,” a health official said.

The NCD Unit meanwhile has pointed out several existing gaps which need to be filled to achieve their goal of diabetes prevention. They include:

Lack of adequate NCD risk factors surveillance system, lack of unified screening methods, lack of standard guidelines for cure, drugs and best practices, lack of an adequate evaluation system and delays in recruiting and training staff on NCD care at primary and secondary levels.

Director General Health Services, Dr P.G. Maheepala said, all these problems were currently being addressed with innovative interventions involving the participation of schools, community and regional and provincial directors of health.

Health Ministry sources said that several awareness raising programs on Diabetes would be conducted next week after World Diabetes Day falls on November 5.