Story by: Ishmael Barfi
As the global public health community commemorate World Diabetes Day 2022, the Ghana NCD Alliance has called on government to act with urgency to avert the rising cases of diabetes and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the country
According to them, between 2019 and 2022, more than 4.16 million people in Ghana had type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, prediabetic patients were around 4.6 million people (statista.com).
“Evidence suggests that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) has increased in parallel to overweight and obesity trends. Currently, SSBs contribute between 10% and 15% of youth’s caloric intake and are the primary source of added sugar in the diet of children and adolescents (Childhood Obesity).”
The above statistics, according to Ghana NCD Alliance is alarming, hence the urgency for government to put in measures to avert the increase if diabetes cases.
This was contained in a press release issued and signed by Labram Musah, National Coordinator for Ghana NCD Alliance in Accra on 14th November, 2022.
This years commemoration is under the theme:, “Access to Diabetes education, with the slogan, Education to protect tomorrow.”
The campaign the release acknowledges is to raise awareness in all sectors of society and provide them with diabetes education, thus essential to ensure/enhance early diagnosis and management to prevent complications; lengthen and improve the quality of life of people living with diabetes.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO), enumerated that in 2014, 8.5% of adults aged 18 years and older had diabetes whiles in 2019, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths of which 48% of all diabetes-related deaths occurred before the age of 70 years.
Also 460, 000 kidney disease deaths were caused by diabetes, with raised blood glucose causing around 20% of cardiovascular deaths.
Aside from obesity and physical inactivity, the press release indicated that, there are other well-established modifiable risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Citing alcohol consumption which is a potentially important, modifiable risk factor of type 2 diabetes, indicating that, alcohol can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, and also interact with some medications that are prescribed to people with diabetes causing complications.
“According to the U.S, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) smokers are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers.”
Adding “Smoking can also make managing the disease and regulating insulin levels more difficult because high levels of nicotine can lessen the effectiveness of insulin, causing smokers to need more insulin to regulate blood sugar levels; which without proper management, can lead to severe health problems including but not limited to: Heart disease, Blindness, Kidney failure, and Nerve and blood vessel damage to the feet and legs which could lead to amputation in severe cases.
Despite well-document evidence on the rising cases and effects of diabetes in Ghana, Ghana NCD Alliance lamented that, most of the diabetic population do not have access to appropriate health services, and experience high-out- of pocket payment on simple things like test strips, which the NHIS currently is not covering as part of its benefits package.
To ensure efficient and effective health care delivery service to the diabetes population, Ghana NCD Alliance recommends the following:
First and foremost, government should ease the diabetes burden and provide adequate information/education on diabetes to help prevent and manage the disease by caregivers and those affected.
Also should convene a national conversation to discuss practical ways to address the financial difficulties faced by the national health insurance scheme as rapid response to the needs of persons living with NCDs particularly diabetes, cardiovascular, cancers among others.
As well as adequately equipping health care facilities especially at the very primary levels (CHPS) to effectively treat and manage diabetes.
In addition, government should invest in health promotion initiatives/interventions to ensure wider access to diabetes and other NCDs education.
And should include full diabetes treatment in the NHIS and ensure that all people who are diagnosed with diabetes have access to equitable, comprehensive, affordable, and quality treatment and care.
In furtherance, government should impose high taxes on health-harming products such as SSBs, Alcohol, and Tobacco to control consumption, and increase health outcomes.
And to also increase the health budget particularly for NCDs prevention and control to reduce the rising burden of NCDs in Ghana as well as effectively enforce existing policies that help people to opt for healthier lifestyles and diets, thus ensuring that healthy foods are accessible and affordable.
“Diabetes and its related health complications can be dire and very costly, which could take a severe toll on the quality of life; affecting the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the affected person, caregivers, and the entire family with children highly impacted and at the disadvantaged,” the release reiterated.
Therefore called for a deliberate actionable plan to roll out government-led nationwide education to prevent and mitigate the rising harm of diabetes.
“It is thus appropriate to reiterate these words by Mr. Francis Essel; a person living with diabetes as he shared with the Ghana NCD Alliance, his bitter journey with the disease to emphasize the level of harm and destruction the disease can cause, for urgent actions to mitigate this.
“Diabetes stole my future away, deprived me of my dreams, and impacted gravely on my finances, which ultimately affected my quality of life”.
“Understanding diabetes is the first step towards managing and preventing it; hence the need to adopt a healthy lifestyle, while echoing this quote by Thomas Edison, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will involve the patient in the proper use of food, fresh air, and exercise,” Labram Musah, National Coordinator for Ghana NCD Alliance concluded the release.