Commemorating the 2022 World Diabetes Day, the Nigeria Minister of State for Health, Ekumankama Joseph Nkama, on 14 November, emphasized that increased access to diabetes education among the populace is critical to the prevention and management of the disease.
The minister, in a press briefing in Abuja, said that a large majority of people living with the disease in Nigeria have little or no knowledge of diabetes and its complications, and this has been increasing the risk of developing the disease.
He lamented the low knowledge of diabetes among Nigerians – prevention, testing and treatment- has been contributing to the increasing prevalence of cases and mortality from the disease.
Mr Nkama said diabetes remains a major public health problem, and can be effectively prevented or managed through public health awareness creation on healthy lifestyle choices, capacity building of the health workers and improving the capacity level of the care for diagnosis, treatment and support.
“The prevalence of diabetes is increasing worldwide, especially the risk of diabetes type 2 among the population. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the prevalence of diabetes in Nigeria to be 4.3% and the prevalence is largely attributed to the lifestyle changes caused by urbanization and its results; industries producing unhealthy diets including sugar-sweetened drinks, lack of exercise, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol.
Furthermore, the lack of access to proper education for the prevention of Type 2 diabetes, lack of education for those living with all types of diabetes, and access to affordable treatment, including insulin, has been affecting the management of the disease in the country, he said.
He, therefore, urged religious and community leaders, stakeholders and the media to intensify awareness creation about diabetes to improve the prevention of the disease and the health-seeking behaviour of people with the disease.
The minister also appreciated partners, including the WHO and others, for their effort in raising awareness about the disease, and protecting Nigerians from all non-communicable and communicable diseases.
In his goodwill message, the WHO Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said the international community marks World Diabetes Day on 14 November every year, to raise awareness of the growing burden of this disease, and strategies to prevent and manage the threat.
He said the theme for this year is again “Access to diabetes care”, as it was last year, and will be again in 2023, and it highlights the importance of diabetes prevention and response efforts in line with the goal of the WHO Director-General to change the health system toward ‘prevention care and not sick care’.
Dr Mulombo advocated for increased education, and access to diagnostic tools and medicines, particularly insulin, as the most urgent areas of work to detect diabetes.
He explained that if the disease is left unchecked, and without management and lifestyle changes, diabetes can lead to several debilitating complications.
“Unfortunately, response efforts are constrained by the fact that more than one in every two people in Africa living with Diabetes mellitus has never been diagnosed.
“We commit our full support to the requisite training of health workers in the prevention and management of NCDs at community levels, to improve the availability of these services, he said.
Meanwhile, the highlight of the press briefing was the launch of the iCARE initiative, a strategy led by the Federal Ministry of Health in partnership with Novo Nordisk. Its aim is to provide access to affordable diabetes care to vulnerable patients in Nigeria and ensure no child dies from type 1 diabetes.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Nigeria.