On 14 November, the Pacific Community (SPC) joins the world in commemorating World Diabetes Day (WDD). The theme of WDD 2017 is ‘Women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future’.
This year’s campaign promotes the importance of affordable and equitable access for all women at risk for, or living with, diabetes, to essential diabetes medicines and technologies and self-management education. It also highlights the need to strengthen their capacity to prevent type 2 diabetes.
Globally, one in ten women are living with diabetes and one in seven births is affected by diabetes during pregnancy. Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) rank among the top ten countries with the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world. The prevalence of diabetes in females aged 25 – 64 years ranges from 14–45 per cent, with increasing numbers of women diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy in the Pacific region; this threatens the very future of PICTs and must be decisively addressed as a development crisis.
The good news is that PICTs recognise the burden of diabetes and are taking action. SPC is working closely with our members and partners to assist PICTs with their diabetes prevention and control programmes.
In September 2017, SPC led the Inaugural Pacific Diabetes Associations Meeting, which aimed to strengthen diabetes associations to address the diabetes epidemic. This regional meeting created opportunities for regional networking to foster the exchange of knowledge and good practices for better diabetes prevention and care. With continued support from SPC, Solomon Islands, Nauru and Vanuatu have initiated and committed to reactivate their existing associations; and Fiji, Tonga and Guam have further strengthened their associations by building capacity, implementing diabetes awareness campaigns, and strengthening diabetes care.
To support diabetes prevention and control efforts in PICTs, SPC published several healthy lifestyles information, education and promotion resources for prevention of type 2 diabetes and diabetes during pregnancy. Recent publications include: Taro in Pacific Cooking, and Pasifika Plates, which promote healthy nutritious foods, targeting Pacific populations, especially women; Vili’s Healthy Island Adventure, which teaches children about following a healthy lifestyle; the Pacific Nutrition Bingo education tool to promote healthy eating; and a diabetes information factsheet to raise awareness on prevention and control of type 2 diabetes.
PICTs have used the health promotion resources and diabetes risk-factor screening kits supported by SPC to raise diabetes awareness, conduct screenings, and to mark WDD 2017. In Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia, the Chuuk Women’s Council and Chuuk Department of Health Services are working together to recognise WDD; and ministries of health in Nauru, Guam, French Polynesia and Fiji, are collaborating with their stakeholders to mark WDD using resources from SPC to raise awareness and screen for diabetes.
Today, in recognition of WDD, SPC has proudly released a new resource: Live Healthy, Stay Healthy, a booklet that addresses non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors. The booklet provides a 60-day wellness challenge to help individuals reduce their risks of developing diabetes and other NCDs.
Diabetes remains a major health issues in the Pacific region. NCDs – including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer – are the leading cause of death in PICTs, accounting for between 60 and 80 per cent of mortalities. The outlook for the Pacific is concerning, as the current high prevalence of NCD risk factors is likely to lead to increased NCD burden in the future. A significant amount of work remains to be done in the Pacific region.
As the region’s principal scientific and technical organisation, SPC’s Public Health Division actively provides technical support to our member countries to strengthen political leadership and multi-sectoral engagement, support policy and legislation development, and build capacity to address NCDs, including diabetes.
SPC is committed to working together with our member countries and our partners to strengthen in-country capacity to empower both women and men, girls and boys, to adopt healthy lifestyles, prevent and control type 2 diabetes, and improve the health and wellbeing of future generations.