In the ideal world, there are no imperfections that blight the human existence, such as people dying from diseases but, as we all know, “Utopia” is a fictional island described by Sir Thomas More in a book written in the early 1500s. In Greek, utopia means “no place”.
In the meantime, life goes on, and citizens and nations of the world continue the quest for solutions to lessen the momentum of many chronic diseases that are taking a serious toll on the ability to enjoy life to the fullest.
This dilemma has led the World Health Organisation to highlight diabetes — which statistics attributed to being the direct cause of death for 1.5 million people in 2012 – during the global observation of World Health Day, today, with the tagline “Beat Diabetes”.
On an individual level, taking responsibility to obtain optimal health through everyday activities that promote and maintain a healthy lifestyle should be as perfunctory as breathing. From our observation, an increasing number of residents have demonstrated that they are seriously committed to enhance the quality of their lives by “walking the health talk”. Therefore we expect that in addition to their daily routine, the Ministry of Health’s Diabetes Fiesta health fair at King George V Grounds will be well attended as folks avail themselves of the screening sessions and special diabetic foot care clinic.
Studies at home and elsewhere have linked the prevalence of the disease in adults and children alike to obesity, so reducing body mass index through exercise, diet and using prescribed medication will be part and parcel of today’s prevention and control education campaign.
We are encouraged that Antigua & Barbuda has redoubled its efforts to reduce incidences of the disease, seeing that the country is accounted for among the low- and middle-income countries in which diabetes is prevalent, is growing, and where most of the deaths had occurred.
Kudos to our health care professionals who have made significant inroads over the years by preaching prevention and control and by diligently educating nationals about the consequences of diabetes, or “sugar”, which seriously compromises the major organs in a patient’s body, thereby causing heart attacks, strokes, nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness, impotence and infections that can lead to amputations.
We live in a small and close-knit community, so just about everyone is aware of or may be related to someone who is living with diabetes, or has succumbed complications from it. Diabetes is also one of the illnesses for which the Medical Benefits Scheme provides medication free of cost to beneficiaries
However, based on the statistics referred to earlier, and the alarming disclosure that diabetes has reached epidemic proportions, we are in support of a sustained national mobilisation effort aimed at preventing, controlling and reducing the incidences of death from the disease.
Health professionals have shown the connection between diabetes and many of the other chronic causes of death, to include the top two — heart disease and stroke – to an unhealthy lifestyle in which poor diet and inactivity play a leading role.
Families are therefore advised to drastically reduce the consumption of sugar, carbohydrates, processed and fast foods from the diet, and opt for healthy alternatives to include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and to include and encourage young members in sporting activities.
For diabetics and others who wish to prevent its onset, sugar is a very bad word. We applaud the recent decision of our neighbour, Grenada, which decided to increase the taxes on imported fizzy drinks, and we recall the move by the US taken several years ago to impose added taxes on sodas.
Therefore, we anticipate that our government will soon act on the timely recommendation from a PAHO official that regional governments should place high taxes on sodas in order to slow the progress of diabetes.
As stated before, increasing numbers of individuals, groups and organisations here have opted to do all they can to modify their activities in order to keep diabetes, high blood pressure and other debilitating diseases at bay, but since diabetes continues to challenge our complacency and stretch our resources, there will be no resting on our laurels any time soon.
We will be happy to report on any progress towards this end, which will be considered as close to a utopic existence as we will ever be.
We invite you to give us your feedback on our opinions.