Pakistan’s alarming diabetes surge | By Shahzad Lodhi

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Pakistan’s alarming diabetes surge

HEALTH experts in Pakistan have expressed grave concerns over surging cases of diabetes in the South Asian region, warning that the situation could spiral out of control if the government fails to take immediate action.

International Diabetic Federation (IDF) ranking the world’s top countries for number of adults (20–79 years) with diabetes has put Pakistan in third place with a total of 33 million, after China and India.

Pakistan is also the country with the highest proportion of deaths under the age of 60 due to diabetes, with 35.5% The IDF found that a further 11 million adults in Pakistan have Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT), which puts them at higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

Pakistan spends less than 1% of its GDP on health. Decreasing health budget has forced public hospitals to shut down a wide array of health care services, including those for treating diabetes.

In the last passing years, costs have skyrocketed, steering away patients. Diabetes medicine and insulin cost between 2,000 rupees (€10, $11) and 7,000 rupees in Pakistan.

But in a country where the majority live on less than $3 a day, it’s not possible to get proper treatment A lack of access to affordable education in Pakistan also plays a role in growing diabetes cases.

Many Pakistanis living in rural areas are illiterate. They do not understand that diabetes is a silent killer.

Many only seek medical advice when their health status has declined to the point of diabetes-related complications, some of which would require amputation

Unless people change their lifestyle and dietary habits, this problem will continue to haunt us and millions of more people will suffer from it.

In fact, more awareness of the disease needs to be raised nationwide. If diagnosed early and managed carefully, diabetes patients can lead normal lives, but poor management of the disease increases the likelihood of serious complications such as premature blindness, renal failure and amputation, as well as death caused by myocardial infarction or stroke.

The World Health Organization estimates that by 2030 almost 14 million people in Pakistan will have diabetes, up from just over five million in 2000.

This will create a major problem in terms of providing adequate treatment for all these extra patients, in a country with already limited resources.

At government level, there is need to hold an International Diabetes Conference in Pakistan.

Welcoming around 40 doctors locally and rest from various countries shall give a brilliant opportunity to learn about the latest approaches for diagnosing and managing patients with diabetes.

Proposed International diabetes conference to the incumbent government and stake holders by Chair , Dr Asjad Hameed, a British Pakistani, The Diabetes Centre, Pakistan’s largest and multidisciplinary hospital situated along Murree Express, immediate next to Phulgaran toll Plaza may feature lectures and debates led by expert speakers, plus Q&A sessions on a wide variety of topics, such as new diagnostic methods for neuropathy and ischemic heart disease, dietary and pharmacological recommendations, insulin treatment, diabetes and stroke, diabetic foot and managing diabetes in pregnancy, among others.

—The writer is British Pakistani and a freelance journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.