Diabetes is a chronic, debilitating disease which is characterised by elevated levels of sugar in the bloodstream. Serious health complications can result from uncontrolled diabetes, including blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and lower limb amputation.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, 537 million adults—1 in 10—are living with diabetes today, with that number set to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 784 million by 2045. Despite the prevalence of the illness, millions of people around the world do not have access to adequate care and treatment. World Diabetes Day 2021, with its theme, ‘Access to Diabetes Care’, draws attention to this glaring injustice and advocates for increased access to health and other services for diabetics as they seek to deal with their condition.

There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be diagnosed early and managed well. Having access to insulin, oral medication, blood-glucose monitoring, healthful food and a balanced diet, a safe place to exercise, education and psychological support can vastly improve the length and quality of life of a diabetic. Without these fundamental components of care, patients are at an increased risk of experiencing serious complications or early death.

In Trinidad and Tobago, diabetes is the second highest cause of death and affects an estimated 14.5% of the population. Dealing with our burgeoning crisis of diabetes has become critical since the advent of Covid-19, which has put people with diabetes at a higher risk of developing life-threatening symptoms and complications after infection with the virus. Diabetes, along with other non-communicable diseases, poses a significant threat to the health and well-being of our nation; it is therefore critical that, even during a pandemic, we play our part in preventing and delaying its onset and arm ourselves with the knowledge and tools to manage its effects.

An axiom commonly attributed to US President Benjamin Franklin is apposite to this approach: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Greater awareness and education about diabetes, its causes, diagnosis and treatment, gives people the keys they need to unlock a longer, healthier and better quality of life. On World Diabetes Day 2021, let us all resolve to make the necessary decisions and changes in our diets and lifestyles that will allow us to reduce the enormous toll of diabetes on our families, communities and the nation.