Kenya needs to stop the diabetes epidemic

NAIROBI: Every year, Kenya loses thousands of people - both young and old - to diabetes, despite the condition being manageable with early detection.

Last year, 775,200 adults in Kenya were diagnosed with diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation. We lost 15,523 of them.

These are young lives lost, families left without bread winners and dreams shattered.

Further, it is estimated that 582,100 cases of diabetes in adults in Kenya are still undiagnosed.

These ugly statistics indicate that diabetes is no longer a disease of the wealthy.

The world over, diabetes has become a serious public health problem that requires urgent redress.

In the last ten years, the burden of diabetes has more than doubled to reach 387million people diagnosed with the condition.

It is estimated that this will get to 600 million in the next 20 years if nothing is done.

Diabetes does not have to be a death sentence. We can reduce the deaths associated with diabetes as well as the increased prevalence in a number of ways.

First, we must all take responsibility of our health. Take note of symptoms such as frequent urination, increased thirst and blurred vision, which are common signs of diabetes.

Secondly, it is important for both the private and public sectors to work together in awareness creation.

This is sensitising the public on diabetes, its causes, prevention and management. Thousands of people here in Kenya die due to lack of information, which should not be the case.

Through the medical camps which we conduct all year round funded by Safaricom Foundation, we are able to reach thousands of adults and young people with crucial information on diabetes.

Lastly, we must meet the unmet need of insulin.

This is the life-saving drug that every diabetic must use to manage their condition.

At the Kenya Diabetes Management and Information Centre, we try to meet this unmet need especially for children under 18 years.

We do this through the Diabetes Walk in partnership with Safaricom where we raise money to support children who would otherwise not access this lifesaving treatment.

This year the theme is ‘Healthy Living and Diabetes’.

I urge everyone to adopt healthy eating and living to minimise the risks of developing diabetes and to also manage the condition for those who already are diabetic.

If not properly managed, diabetes can lead to serious life-threatening complications such as kidney failure, heart disease, limb amputation, depression and blindness all of which impact negatively on both the quality of life of the individual and how well the disease is controlled.

Unfortunately, when these complications occur, it becomes very expensive to manage. Most insurance companies do not cover diabetic patients.

We recognise Government efforts in coming up with strategies to deal with the diabetes pandemic.

There is, however, a growing need for public-private partnerships to achieve tangible steps in implementing the strategic interventions outlined in the national diabetes control strategy 2010-2015.

It is for this reason that we have partnered with Safaricom Foundation to conduct at least 15 medical camps across the country every year.

For the last ten years, we have conducted over 70 medical camps where we, in addition, sensitise communities on diabetes.

We also conduct diabetes youth camps to train young people on diabetes management and use of insulin.

Let this day serve to remind governments of their commitment to developing national policies for diabetes prevention, treatment and care. Let it also remind the private sector that they have a role to play. Together, we can transform lives.