Lifestyle changes have had a profound impact on the number of cases of diabetes in India and around the world. The prevalence and increase in the number of type 2 diabetes cases globally is a major cause for concern. Where does the solution to this looming crisis lie? Can education and awareness building lead the way? Or will it not have a lasting impact? 

The case for awareness and education

The effects of globalization are there for all to see. Whether it’s the clothes we wear, the shows we watch, or even the food we eat, the impact is long-lasting. The sheer number of sweets and fast foods available, incredible marketing tactics and ease of access to them make focusing on a healthy diet a very difficult proposition. This makes early detection critical. The more people are aware of the severity of the issues they face, the more likely they are to take a positive action to address the situation. Altering dietary behavior might seem challenging, but when faced with the looming threat of diabetes, it is something that can be adapted to.

The ethnic susceptibility of Indians for developing diabetes is a cause for concern. This makes a regular screening program for the disease both a vital and cost-effective solution towards lowering the impact of the disease. By preventing diabetes in high-risk individuals in India, the costs associated with treatment of the disease can be lowered in the short and long term. 

Secondary prevention (treatment of diabetes complications) can also be an effective tool in tackling the economic effects of the disease while improving patient quality of life. It allows a reduction in major expenditures associated with advanced diabetes. In fact, several studies show that cost savings of up to 75% may be possible just by switching the goalposts and providing primary resolutions to diabetes-related complaints via outpatient consultations.

Ground-level interventions are needed

The severity of diabetes and its associated complications may not be evident across the country. Shared care responsibilities, between GPs, primary healthcare workers, and ASHA (accredited social health activist) workers may be more suitable to the diverse patient environment in India. This is an especially strong mechanism that can be leveraged towards awareness-building and education.

Education and infrastructure must improve together

The lack of knowledge and awareness about the disease can have far-reaching effects. 25% of the population in India is currently unaware of diabetes. Only 22.2% of the population and 41% of known diabetics feel that diabetes can be prevented. While awareness levels tend to increase with better education, only 42.6% postgraduates, medical professionals and lawyers felt that diabetes was preventable. The dependence of the average Indian diabetic on a GP is also high, with over 92.3% cases being treated by them rather than a diabetic specialist. The need for improving awareness is pressing, as, with it, patients can manage their diabetes better.

Where does the solution lie?

There are many areas that will need to be addressed for proper care and management of diabetes. Enhancing infrastructural capabilities, and skills for health personnel must be the key focus areas.  Access to knowledge, the right medications and healthcare facilities, and addressing economic disparity in the healthcare system is also essential. By alleviating the socio-economic burden on diabetics, educating them on healthy lifestyle changes, and formulating policies that procure healthy yet low-cost food items, a few steps can be taken in the right direction.