KARACHI: Health experts and medical scientists warned on Wednesday that diabetes was killing more people in low- and middle-income countries like Pakistan than coronavirus and that the number of patients with diabetes could reach up to 100 million in the country by 2045, if immediate steps were not taken by authorities and people together.

They cited official health data which suggested that there were around 20m people living with type 2 diabetes in Pakistan, but alarmingly, there were as many people who were unaware that they had diabetes.

If immediate steps were not taken jointly by the people and the government, the number of diabetics in Pakistan could surpass the figure of 100m in next 25 years, they said.

“Diabetes is spreading at an alarming speed in Pakistan, which is ranked fourth in the world and second among 21 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region for having the highest number of diabetic patients,” said renowned endocrinologist and president of Pakistan Endocrine Society (PES) Dr Ibrar Ahmed while addressing a launching ceremony of 200 diabetes clinics throughout Pakistan at a local hotel.

Under the banner of ‘Discovering Diabetes Project,’ a network of 200 clinics has been established by the PES in collaboration with local pharmaceutical firm Pharmevo to track, screen, access and prevent diabetes and create awareness of the condition.

Over 100 consultant diabetologists, general physicians and healthcare professionals from public and private health facilities in Karachi, who linked their clinics with Discovering Diabetes Project, were present on the occasion while others joined the ceremony online from their respective cities and towns in the country.

“Recently, we held a screening camp in one of the cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where we found 125 diabetics after screening 460 people, which is around 27 per cent,” said Dr Ahmed of the PES.

“Of these 125 diabetics, 16pc were newly diagnosed as they did not know that they have diabetes. We appeal to the people to take advantage of this project and get themselves and their family members screened for the lifestyle disease.”

Eminent diabetologist Dr Musarat Riaz from the Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology (BIDE) said that over 250 people were dying daily in Pakistan due to complications of diabetes, which was much more than the deaths due to Covid-19 in the country.

Dr Riaz added that there were thousands of children and pregnant women among 20m undiagnosed diabetics in Pakistan, who had never thought of having the lifestyle disease and called for making diabetes and its risk factors part of national curriculum to control the epidemic in the country.

“It would sound very strange but we now have thousands of children and pregnant women who are undiagnosed diabetics due to sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary habits of our people. We would have to change our lifestyle and dietary habits immediately to avoid becoming a nation of disabled youth and people,” Dr Riaz warned.

The project director of Discovering Diabetes, Syed Jamshed Ahmed, said they had launched the project to prevent people of Pakistan from becoming diabetics and in this regard, they had launched a free helpline.

People above the age of 40 with family history of diabetes could call at 0800-66766 to seek help, consultation and facility of diabetes testing from a reputed lab free of charge, he added.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2021

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