High stress levels and unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits are contributing to an alarming rise in diabetes in Pakistan, contrary to global trends.
According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organization and the Diabetes Association of Pakistan, from 1994 to 1998, there were around seven million people suffering from diabetes in the country.
While there are no fresh surveys or official figures available about the current situation, rough estimates by health experts suggest that this figure has since jumped to 30 to 40 million Pakistanis, or around 20 per cent of the country’s population.
Physicians and medical personnel directly dealing with diabetic patients, however, have more stark figures to share.
Every third patient who visits the outpatient departments at public hospitals suffers from diabetes, said Professor Dr Jamal Zafar, a diabetes specialist at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims).
Dr Zafar added that a pilot survey of a congested area in Rawalpindi showed that around 32 per cent of the residents there suffered from some form of diabetes.
The medical practitioner was of the view that the number of people dying from various complications arising out of diabetes was also quite high and increasing. By contrast, this figure is steadily falling in Europe and other developed countries owing to advances in treatment, awareness and preventative measures.
At the Diabetic Foot Clinic in Pims, around 10 per cent of the patients lose their legs or feet due to gangrene owing to diabetes, much higher than the global average of seven per cent.
“Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation worldwide, but in Pakistan people comparatively suffer more from such problems at a younger age,” said Dr Zafar.
Talking about why there was an above average prevalence rate for diabetes in Pakistan, Dr Zafar offered that people either did not know if they were suffering from the disease due to lack of awareness or that they did not undergo regular screenings after diagnosis and maintain the prescribed sugar levels.
He added that diabetes can be managed and its consequences avoided or delayed with due care in diet, physical activity, medication and regular screenings.
Unfortunately, he lamented little to no work has been done to prevent and cure the disease at the government or the private level- including non-governmental organisations, educational institutions and media.
Awareness walk in Presidency
President Mamnoon Hussain Sunday urged the people, particularly the youth, to spend a healthy life by developing habits of exercise and hard work to better serve the country.
“The first shipment of trade cargo is being shipped today from Gwadar Port. This will create new opportunities for the country,” President Hussain said while addressing participants of an awareness walk held at the President House in connection with World Diabetes Day.
“Now Pakistan is destined to prosper. Keep yourself ready to benefit from these opportunities. For this you will have to keep yourself fit through a healthy lifestyle,” he urged.
The President added that the role and responsibility of an individual was far more important than that of the state in guarding against diabetes. “Healthy habits like use of boiled water, keeping utensils clean, diet control, walk and regular exercise can keep us safe from diseases,” he added.
Later, a symbolic walk was arranged by the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University which was attended by the President and hundreds of people, including men, women and children with renowned figures including Minister of State for CADD Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, Danish Ambassador to Pakistan Ole Thonke, Vice Chancellor of the University Dr Javed Akram and other medical practitioners.
At the end of the walk, the President along with other participants, also released white and blue pigeons.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2016.