Guyana: Diabetes in children increasing

Guyana Chronicle:-  ABOUT 100 children from across Guyana are suffering from ‘type 1’ diabetes, but Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence believes that they should not look at it as the end of the world and instead be champions of their condition.

“I want to say be champions of your condition… feel free to speak about it and I know even as you fight, you are helping to save other lives,” said Minister Lawrence in her remarks at the launch of a three-day annual diabetes youth camp organised by the Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with the Guyana Diabetics Association (GDA).

Children who are suffering from diabetes usually have low self-esteem, but through the programme, the organisers intend to educate the participants about their condition; teaching them how to take their medication and deal with depression.

According to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic metabolic disease characterised by elevated blood glucose (hyperglycemia). It is associated with an absolute or relative deficiency in the secretion and/or action of insulin. Raised blood glucose, a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes, may, over time, lead to serious damage to blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

There are three main forms of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common, accounting for approximately 85 per cent to 90 per cent of all cases. It is related to modifiable risk factors such as obesity or overweight, physical inactivity, and high-calorie diets of low nutritional value.

In 2011, it was reported that there were 54 children in Guyana who have diabetes. Over the years, the number has evidently grown, so the ministry has been working to ensure that the children are educated about the disease.

“We are all fighters… we are not about to give up on any condition… we have decided that we are going to commit ourselves to ensuring those diabetic boys and girls across Guyana are given a fighting chance to live just as any other boy or girl,” said Minister Lawrence, adding that the ministry stands ready to give the necessary assistance to any child or group which has a similar objective to the ministry.

Children were urged to be optimistic about life and ensure that they pursue and achieve their dreams, goals and aspirations.

With the support of the ministry and other stakeholders, the minister believes that children, who are living with diabetes, could go on to do great things.

President of the GDA Glynis Alonzo-Beaton, said the camp which is being held at the Madewini camp site, serves as a stepping stone for children to garner the encouragement and go on to excel. This year, approximately 35 children are participating in the camping programme.

The programme has been held for the past 12 years, but the youth arm of the GDA has been spearheading the camp for three years.

Prior to the actual camp, the children usually go through a series of preliminary training which helps them to build their self-esteem and grow academically, emotionally and socially.

Over the next two days, the children will be participating in different exercises and competing for prizes. They have been split into teams.

President of the youth arm of the GDA, Keziah Nestor, said while they will be having fun, the children will also be learning about their condition so that they can become an “army” which will sensitise other children and even adults about the disease.

According to statistics from PAHO, in 2014, around 422 million adults aged over 18 years were living with diabetes worldwide, with 62 million (15 per cent) of them living in the Americas.

The overall prevalence of raised blood glucose in the Americas had increased from five per cent in 1980 to 8.3 per cent in 2014.

The increase in prevalence of diabetes was attributed to population growth and aging, the rise in age-specific prevalence or the interaction among these two aspects. Also, the associated risk factors such as overweight and obesity, together with insufficient physical activity, are estimated to cause a large proportion of the diabetes burden.