Diabetes a leading killer in three Caribbean countries

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday November 16, 2012 – Diabetes is among the main cause of death in The Bahamas, Jamaica and Dominica, with health officials in Nassau describing the disease as a “national epidemic”.

Bahamas Health Minister Dr Perry Gomez said that diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death for all ages with a rate of 29.2 deaths per 100,000 people.

He said the situation required the attention of all stakeholders “if we are to bring the numbers down to a more manageable level”.

Dr Gomez said statistics from the Princess Margaret Hospital show that there was an average of 100 “lower extremity amputations” in The Bahamas from the period 2002-2006, and that there were 165 below the knee amputations in 2002 alone.

He said the rates could be higher as figures from the Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport, Grand Bahama, and Doctors Hospital in New Providence have not been included.

“These numbers represent a significant number of limbs lost, and lives that are irrevocably changed,” Dr Gomez said. “Surely, these rates are unacceptable. The time has come for us to focus on prevention and education of the citizens of this country.

“We are aware that this disease can be contained by making lifestyle changes,” he told a symposium held under the theme: “Diabetic Foot 101: Saving Legs, Saving Lives”.

“This Diabetic Foot Symposium is designed to create an awareness of the devastating impact of diabetic foot complications and to improve the skills of healthcare professionals in preventing and managing the complications of the disease,” Dr Gomez said.

Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson, in a message marking World Diabetes Day, said that 173,642 Jamaicans over 25 years old and 6,914 youths 15-24 years old suffer from diabetes.

“Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death accounting for 12.9 per cent of all deaths in Jamaica. Yet, 80 per cent of type II diabetes is preventable. Death and disability from diabetes and non-communicable diseases can be prevented by addressing the four main lifestyle risk factors which are physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol.”

Dr Ferguson said that several National surveys show that these risk factors continue to increase and spread throughout the Jamaican population.

But he said that in order tackle these behaviours, “we must start early, and target children and youth as behaviours are formed early in life”.

“Let us start with ourselves and our families in engaging in these healthy habits and work together to create supportive environments, for example smoke free spaces, and areas for physical activity. Many of us know persons living with diabetes or ourselves have diabetes. We must also support persons living with this disease so they can lead productive lives.”

In Dominica, meanwhile, Health Minister Julius Timothy is equally disturbed about recent trends related to the disease.

“I am deeply concerned with the increase in the number of amputations due to diabetic ulcers, a preventable condition in Dominica. Diabetes is known to be a contributing factor to the development of blindness and kidney disease,” he said.

Timothy said more than 35 people were presently on dialysis at the Princess Margaret Hospital, due mainly to diabetes, and urged all stakeholders to begin to take responsibility to protect the health of future generations.

“This calls for a strengthening of links between the population, the ministry of health, the business community, church and other governmental organizations”, Timothy said in a message to mark World Diabetes Day. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)