Poor lifestyles, cause of high rate of diabetes


Accra, Nov. 19, GNA - Dr. Daniel Kertesz, Representative of the World Health Organisation in Ghana, on Thursday attributed the high rate of diabetes in the country to the poor lifestyles of Ghanaians.

He said a recent survey conducted in Accra and Kumasi suggested that between six and 12 per cent of adults had diabetes and up to two-thirds of new cases detected in Accra had no prior knowledge of their status before the test.

This, he said, indicated the need for expanded education leading to early detection, diagnosis, prevention and care.

Speaking at a programme to commemorate World Diabetes Day which fell on November 14, Dr Kertesz said most Ghanaians had now become addicted to poor dietary practices, such as excessive intake of fat, sugar, alcohol and tobacco, eating very little or no vegetables and not exercising.

He said the substitution of ancient rural practices, such as brisk walking for urban lifestyles and ways of feeding, also accounted for the rise in diabetes from 25,000 in 2002 to 113,000 in 2007 of all Out Patients Department (OPD) recordings in the country.

"At the global level diabetes currently affects more than 285 million people worldwide, with 80 per cent of them in low and middle income countries. A further 344 million people are at high risk of developing the disease, with a further projection that more than 435 million people would live with diabetes world-wide by the year 2030," Dr Kertesz said.

"This phenomenon leads to a concentration of high level of glucose in the blood as a result of problems with the production of insulin by an organ in the body known as the pancreas."

Dr Kertesz said when insulin was absent or inactive, glucose cannot move into the cells of the body and be used for energy, leading to a build-up of sugar in the blood and tissues and a final damage to many parts of the body systems especially the nerves and the blood vessels.

Dr Kertesz said warning signs of the disease included frequent urination, excessive thirst, increased hunger, tiredness, weight loss, lack of interest and concentration, tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet, blurred vision, frequent infections and slow-healing wounds.

He said the rise in the global epidemic called for a well structured diabetes education programme, as critical elements of the prevention and control.

Dr Kertesz said this year's campaign under the theme: "Diabetes Education and Prevention," with the slogan "Understand Diabetes and Take Control" are geared towards ensuring increased opportunities for diabetes education within healthcare systems and communities and also ensure appropriate strategies for screening, diagnosis and early treatment.

He called on government to also enact appropriate policies for better prevention and management, saying these actions would contribute immensely to reduce the related huge costs, ill-health, disabilities and premature deaths.

Dr Benjamin Kumbuor, Minister of Health-designate whose speech was read by Mr George Kumi Kyeremeh, Director of Nursing Services, Ghana Health Service, said it was sad to note that as high as 80 per cent of Ghanaians were acquiring the type two form of diabetes, which was rather highly preventable through healthy lifestyles.

He said factors such as obesity and overweight, lack of exercise, previously identified glucose intolerance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, family history of diabetes were associated with a person's risk of developing the disease.

The Health Minister said it had been realised that most people with diabetes cannot access education owing to factors such as cost and lack of appropriate services and lack of awareness of services that existed in health facilities.

He said the government of Ghana's current health policy emphasises a shift in paradigm for clinical care to health promotion, adding that the introduction of Regenerative Health and Nutrition Programme was intended to encourage healthy lifestyles including healthy meals, adequate rest, physical exercise and reducing stress.

He said Government was also working towards a one-time payment of premiums for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and urged all families to register with the scheme, as it had provisions that covered cost of insulin for diabetic patients.