Diabetes and its escalating cost

Tomorrow is World Diabetes Day. In fact, the entire month of November has been named Diabetes Awareness Month. The reason for this is three-fold: To recognise the debilitating effects of the disease, the tremendous cost associated with it, and, the need to provide access to care and education to bring it under control.

In this weekend’s issue of THE VOICE Newspaper is an eight-page supplement, which features much of what we need to know about diabetes, the different types and how the disease could be fought, once one has it or is diagnosed as having it in its very early stages. It is our sincere hope that persons with the disease and those caring for them find something within the pages of the Diabetes Supplement that would inform them and ease their burden.

The personal costs associated with the disease are many and we are not joking or making light of this. We are aware of this because a member of our editorial board is a director of the Saint Lucia Diabetes and Hypertension Association, voluntarily giving of his time and expertise to help fight this disease in the country.

To a diabetic the daily monitoring of diet and glucose, the daily adjustments in medications, the fear or the presence of acute and debilitating chronic complications are not just physical headaches but costly factors to their budget.

In Saint Lucia today the diabetic population appears to be growing. We say that based not on any recent survey or analytical examination of the disease in Saint Lucia as these have yet to be done, but on the observations of persons who are more than knee deep in providing care to the diabetics in our community, but who are also involved in educating the entire country about the disease.

We will stop short of saying there is an epidemic of diabetes in Saint Lucia. We leave that for the health experts amongst us to decide, however, what we can say is that the disease is prevalent in our society today and therefore all hands must be on deck to beat back its reach.

While research is needed to determine whether the disease has plateaued in Saint Lucia or to tell us exactly where we are with the disease, the mere fact that changing demographics, the increasing longevity of Saint Lucians and an unwillingness or disinclination on the part of too many of  us to change our lifestyles, exercise or eat better foods, which we may add are not costlier than fast foods, means that diabetes will not disappear from this country any time in the near or distant future.

This is where we call on the public, policy makers and everyone in between to take a hard look at the disease which is now invading our most precious resource – our young people. Yes, even our children are being diagnosed with diabetes.

We are issuing a wakeup call to everyone to pay attention to the disease because if we do not, we will find ourselves in a situation where the disease’s rising costs will hamper the development of the country’s health care.

We call on government, the Saint Lucia Diabetes and Hypertension Association and other health care personnel to start looking at the underlying factors driving diabetes cost. It was stated elsewhere that many of those costs are related to inefficient systems of care, the costs associated to an aging population and the rise in costs to health care generally.

We are calling on government to put more money and expertise into organizations like the Saint Lucia Diabetes and Hypertension Association, which over the past 35 years or so has been doing an astonishingly good job, give and take, in keeping its doors open, even at times when the doors appear to be closing for good due to the machinations of men and women within its organisation and other outside forces.

Corporate Saint Lucia has been playing its role in fighting the disease when called upon to do so by providing much needed funds and equipment. But the fight is a daily one. Therefore, as we observe diabetes day tomorrow, let’s all pledge to continue the fight. One thing we are certain of: we cannot allow diabetes to win in this land.

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