World Health Day is a global initiative celebrated every year on 7 April to mark the anniversary of establishing World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. The World Health Day is celebrated each year since 1950 to draw worldwide attention to the importance on global health. Each year a subject is taken to raise awareness on an issue.
World Health Day 2016
The theme of World Health Day 2016 is ‘Beat Diabetes’. Diabetes is a non-communicable disease (NCD) directly impacting millions of people worldwide, mostly in low and middle income countries. It is a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose which may over time lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.
Around 350 million people worldwide have diabetes, which is expected to more than double in the next 20 years. The main forms of diabetes are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 accounts for around 90% of all diabetes worldwide. Diabetes is predicted to become the seventh leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030. Total deaths from diabetes are projected to rise by more than 50% in the next 10 years.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, five countries among the six highest diabetes prevalence rates in the world are Gulf States countries, including Bahrain which is ranked the fifth. Currently around 15% of the country’s population suffers from diabetes, with the illness causing 5% of deaths. It is estimated that diabetes prevalence will increase by more than two fold in Bahrain in the next two decades.
Gravity of the Situation
Diabetes is not just an individual health issue alone, its complications bring about substantial economic loss to people, their families, work force, health systems and national economies through direct medical costs and loss of work and wages. In addition, it entails manufacturing, delivery, sale and consumption of related medicines having great environmental impacts on safe disposal of wastes. The seriousness of the problem is that 50% of individuals are unaware that they have the disease but even those diagnosed with diabetes are identified after years of the disease with no symptoms.
Working to prevent, detect and treat diabetes is also critical to development. Within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, Governments have set an ambitious target to reduce premature mortality, including diabetes by one third; achieve universal health coverage; and provide access to affordable essential medicines to all by 2030. Often people from low socio-economic background and illiterate workers need to know they are at risk of having diabetes. Those at risk include people who have a family history of diabetes, are overweight or obese, habitually do no physical activity, suffer from hypertension, have hyperlipidemia and low HDL cholesterol or high triglyceride.
A number of studies have demonstrated that the prevalence of diabetes can be significantly reduced if certain lifestyle changes are imposed. A lack of exercise appears to be one of the major contributors to the disease. In addition, eating large quantities of fat and sugar puts us at risk of getting the disease. Although there are drugs that can reduce the risk of getting diabetes, it is important instilling preventative measure in our lifestyle as treating symptoms of the disease.
The Way Forward
Diabetes can be controlled through targeted prevention and appropriate personal care by having a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco. World Health Day 2016 is an opportunity to alert people to take care of their individual and family health, raise awareness on the subject and be a health person to serve our family, community, company and country.