Mauritius: Calling Upon Families to Act On Diabetes Now

The new Minister of Health and Wellness of the Republic of Mauritius, Dr Hon Kailesh Kumar Singh Jagutpal launched a series of activities in the south of the country on 23 November 2019 to mark the World Diabetes Day at national level.

The objective of the World Diabetes Day was to raise global awareness about the increasing burden of diabetes, and the lifestyle measures that can be taken to prevent it. Eminent personalities participated in the event including Dr Hon M. I. Rawoo, Parliamentary Private Secretary, Dr Ori of the Ministry of Health and Wellness and WHO Representative in Mauritius, Dr Laurent Musango.

Dr Hon K. Jagutpal, Minister of Health and Wellness, during his address, pointed out the need for education and awareness to help people spot the diabetes warning signs early. "Fortunately in Mauritius, there is equal access to all health services for prevention and control of diabetes, free of cost. A number of programmes and services for primary prevention are in place and those with diabetes have access to free treatment, blood tests, retinal screening, foot care and education about management of diabetes and prevention of diabetes complications", said Dr Hon K. Jagutpal.

Mauritius is at the forefront of the diabetes epidemic with an estimated 257,442 people between the ages of 25 and 74 years living with diabetes. According to the national NCD survey 2015, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the Mauritian population aged 25-74 yrs was 22.8%. The situation is of great concern as there is a high rate not only diabetes but also of prediabetes in the adult population.

"Diabetes remains very high on the agenda of my government which views with much concern the health problems of the population caused by NCDs", said Dr Hon K. Jagutpal. The strong measures taken by the Government of Mauritius in view of protecting the health of the people were highlighted. In fact, a number of laws and regulations have been passed by Government, namely laws to control the amount of saturated fats in oils. The Food Regulations are currently being amended to limit the level of trans-fatty acids in fats and oils. Important laws under the Public Health Act to put prohibitions on the use of Tobacco and Alcohol have also been promulgated.

Sports facilities have been put in place to promote physical activity among the Mauritian population. In addition, NCD Screening for early detection of the diseases, their risk factors and complications has been further strengthened to ensure that the whole population, in particular those at risk, is screened on a regular basis. The programme aims at providing health services to the community at their doorsteps, at schools and at workplaces. In 2018, 346 worksites/localities were visited and 30, 597 persons were screened.

Furthermore, the comprehensive national School Health Programme aiming at early detection of NCDs among the students, and sensitizing them on healthy living style has covered 180 secondary schools in 2018 whereby some 38, 131 students were screened. Mauritius is also contemplating the implementation of Technology-Assisted Diabetes Prevention Programme to strengthen the existing national NCD Prevention and Control Programme. A pilot project is being implemented among 423 pre-diabetic to study the impact that receiving SMS diabetes prevention messages can have in addition to the standard treatment.

Dr L. Musango, WHO Representative in Mauritius, during his speech, emphasized the role of the family in managing diabetes which impacts not only on the patient but on those closest to them. He added that, "if diabetes is not managed properly, it can lead to severe complications, such as blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputations among others". It was pointed out that this chronic disease requires a healthy lifestyle, with daily treatment and monitoring and the associated health-care costs can also push families into poverty. Dr L. Musango focused on the modifiable risk factors such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco smoking that can impact significantly on the prevention and control of diabetes.

The WHO Representative in Mauritius recalled that in the African Region, the prevalence of diabetes has more than doubled, among adults 20 years and over, from 3.1% in 1980 to 7.1% in 2014. In countries, prevalence of raised blood sugar ranges from 3% in Togo and Benin to 23% in Niger (almost one in four people), and it is estimated to 22.8% in Mauritius. Dr Musango highlighted that half the people with diabetes are not aware they have the disease.

Dr Musango congratulated the Government of Mauritius for the efforts deployed so far to tackle NCDs in general and Diabetes in particular. He highlighted that Mauritius is continuing to improve prevention and management of diabetes.

This includes building capacity to monitor the burden through surveys using the WHO STEP wise approach to noncommunicable diseases surveillance and ensuring health services for diabetes are available in the public services as part of primary health care, using the WHO Package of Essential Noncommunicable Diseases (PEN) services. It was pointed out that Mauritius, like other countries in the Region, namely Seychelles and South Africa, have enacted laws to tax sugar-sweetened beverages, which will contribute to reduced consumption - in turn, preventing obesity and diabetes.

WHO request for reconsidering the implementation of "tobacco tax" in the next year budget was renewed. The WHO Representative also advocated for innovative approach in the prevention and control of diabetes and other NCDs such as the use of artificial intelligence for early diagnosis of diabetes and the mobile technology to educate patients on the treatment of type 2 diabetes to improve medication compliance

To conclude, Dr Musango called upon the families to act on diabetes through daily actions such as maintaining healthy diets by consuming less than six teaspoons of sugar each day, by being more physically active - a brisk 30-minute walk each day will help, and to check individual body weight, body mass index and blood sugar at least annually in the general population and more often for people at higher-risk of diabetes. Dr Musango focused on the importance of close collaboration of all stakeholders so that together we can reduce the incidence of diabetes, ensure quality care for people living with diabetes as part of universal health coverage, and promote better well-being for families across the Republic of Mauritius.

"Diabetes remains very high on the agenda of my government which views with much concern the health problems of the population caused by NCDs", said Dr Hon K. Jagutpal

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