On World Diabetes Day, pause for a moment and think

12Nov 2020
The Guardian
On World Diabetes Day, pause for a moment and think

WHILE traditionally governments (after independence) were preoccupied with fighting external diseases like malaria and an assortments of infectious diseases, the modern era has seen a tilt towards silently experienced diseases that don’t come down to infections, etc.

There is a whole range of such situations but the most notable ones include diabetes, which is ranked alongside hypertension as issues of gross concern to medical professionals, not to speak of families and public welfare generally. And there is an added problem that this is a situation arising from living precisely the life that most of us aspire to live.

That is precisely why marking the World Diabetes Day (November 14)  poses peculiar problems, as it isn’t a sphere where one speaks on public policy and allocation of resources, expecting to make an input and do so in time. For each time that a voice is heard in the legislature, among civil society organizations or individual experts concerning what is being done concerning a particular problem, there is a chance that action is reactivated or made more dynamic somewhere, and that is for the public good. It isn’t quite so with diabetes; here the role of public agencies is at the very end of things, not where the message goes.

At the same time when the country is confronted with a growing public health problem, blaming the victims isn’t what those in government, experts or even the media are expected to do, but help to find a way out .It is through precautionary advice to those who aren’t in that condition as yet, and helpful guidance on disease management to those already in situations like diabetes or hypertension, and they quite often go together. That is largely what the public needs to do, in the sense really of persisting in that direction and not seeing it as a burden, for it involves time and resources, both personal and public, to take care of those in difficulty while ensuring that other needs, often competing in gravity, are on board.

Available data indicates that there were 897,000 reported cases of diabetes in 2017 in Tanzania, .with figures compiled by the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) saying there is a prevalence of around 3.6 per cent for the total adult population estimated at around 25 million early 2019. As trends in the country perceptibly indicate, world authorities affirm that countries are falling behind in tackling non-communicable diseases, while helpfully suggesting that 2030 world health goals are still within reach.

While fortunately the rate of prevalence of the coronavirus pandemic pared to nearly zero in Tanzania in the past four months or so, other anxieties were being raised elsewhere that the pandemic was triggering Type 1 diabetes in children. Still the big driver of diabetes – itself a silent pandemic – is that people shift to urban life and have less walking, running, digging or carrying work as part of daily chores, and this lets the body build nutritional defences it doesn’t need. It becomes a burden in due course, as excess sugar.

What however is somewhat ironic about diabetes is that it is also linked with attitudes, not just to food but to others. The more we care for others the less we give ourselves excessively nutritious treatment. It is in the course of denying oneself that the best precaution against diabetes actually comes up, surprisingly.