Every year, 14th November is observed as World Diabetes Day; dedicated to spreading the message about diabetes and raising awareness about the condition. It is an internationally recognised event and also an official United Nations Day.
Diabetes is a chronic condition which occurs when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. This leads to an increased level of glucose in the blood, also known as hyperglycaemia.
November 14 marks the birthday of Fredrick Banting, the man who co-discovered insulin along with Charles Best in 1922. The logo of World Diabetes Day is a blue circle.
Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent or childhood-onset diabetes) is characterised by a lack of insulin production. Type 2 diabetes (previously called non-insulin dependent or adult onset diabetes) is caused by the body’s ineffective use of insulin. It often results from excess body weight and physical inactivity. Gestational diabetes is hyperglycaemia that is first recognised during pregnancy.
The theme for World Diabetes Day 2017 is “Women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future”. It is estimated that one in 10 women live with diabetes, but not all women have the same access to education, treatment and care.
At present, over 199 million women are estimated to be living with diabetes. This figure is projected to go up to 313 million by the year 2040. Two out of every five women with diabetes are of reproductive age, accounting for over 60 million women worldwide.
Women with type 1 diabetes have an increased risk of early miscarriage or having a baby with malformations. Women with type 2 diabetes are almost 10 times more likely to have coronary heart disease than women without the condition.
Approximately one in seven births is affected by gestational diabetes (GDM), a severe and neglected threat to maternal and child health. Women with GDM are likely to experience pregnancy related complications including high blood pressure, large birth weight babies and obstructed labour.
A significant number of women with GDM also go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five to 10 years of delivering their child, further adding to healthcare complications and costs. Half of all cases of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy occur in women under the age of 30, with a vast majority reported in low and middle-income where access to maternal care is limited.
Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally, causing around 2.1 million deaths each year. As a result of socioeconomic conditions, girls and women with diabetes have difficulties in accessing cost-effective diabetes prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care, especially in developing countries. These limitations expose women to the main risk factors of diabetes, including poor diet and nutrition, physical inactivity, tobacco consumption and harmful use of alcohol.
What needs to be done
Up to 70 percent of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. Promoting opportunities for physical exercise in adolescent girls, especially in developing countries must be a priority for diabetes prevention.
Governments and health agencies must pay adequate attention to the specific needs and priorities of women. Women with diabetes should have access to the essential medicines and technologies, self-management education and information they need to achieve optimal diabetes outcomes. All women with diabetes should have access to pre-conception planning services to reduce risk during pregnancy. Type 2 diabetes prevention strategies must focus on maternal health and nutrition and other health behaviours before and during pregnancy, as well as infant and early childhood nutrition.
Antenatal care visits during pregnancy must be optimised for health promotion in young women and early detection of diabetes and GDM. Screening for diabetes and GDM should be integrated into other maternal health interventions and services at primary healthcare level to ensure early detection, better care for women and reduced maternal mortality.
Author is Information Assistant, PIB Srinagar