Remarks by Minister of Health Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew on World Diabetes Day 2022

My Fellow Citizens,

This is the time of year when there is increased focus on Diabetes, a global public health issue and awareness of the associated challenges and opportunities relative to prevention, diagnosis and management of the condition.

Diabetes is a common, chronic, progressive, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood sugar. The condition occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough of the insulin hormone, which regulates blood sugar, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin, it produces.

When diabetes is not detected early and is improperly controlled, the health consequences are dire. Diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, and nerves, resulting in lower limb amputations and other serious complications such as physical and physiological disabilities with accompanying job loss and reduced household income which may result in far-reaching psychological problems.

Notably, Diabetes is one of the prominent, chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) that countries are grappling with, and its occurrence is a universal concern, especially when with much alarm, the current epidemiological data continue to reveal its escalating prevalence.

Moreover, the publications of the International Diabetes Federation Diabetes Atlas, correlate with the increasing figures, citing that presently 537 million adults around the world are living with Diabetes with lamentable increases in developing countries such as ours.

To be more specific, according to the World Health Organization and the International Diabetes Federation, Diabetes is the number one cause of death and disability among the NCDs globally and the following current statistical data provide credence to the enormity of the situation.

  • one in ten (10.5%) adults around the world (approximately 537 million) are currently living with diabetes.
  • the total number of persons with diabetes is predicted to rise to 643 million (11.3%) by 2030 and 783 million (12.2%) by 2045.
  • over 4 in 5 (81%) persons with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries.
  • an estimated 44.7% of adults living with diabetes (240 million people) are undiagnosed.
  • diabetes was responsible for an estimated USD 966 billion in global health expenditure in 2021. This represents a 316% increase over the last 15 years.
  • 6.7 million adults are estimated to have died due to diabetes or its complications in 2021 – 1 death every 5 seconds.

In St Kitts and Nevis, the total mortality rate for Diabetes from 2017 to 2020 was 457.68 per 100,000 population for a total of 216 cases.

Although the figures remain high, I am pleased to indicate that the number of registered cases at Community Based Health Centres decreased from an average 120 to 85 new cases per annum over 2021-2022. Of the total registered number, 69% are female and 31% are male although this may be attributed to the fact that more women than men access health care.

Clearly, the global and national statistics are troubling, and generally, globally, both the number of cases and the prevalence of diabetes have been steadily increasing over the past few decades, largely because of increased obesity, unhealthy diet, and exposure to metabolic, nutritional, and behavioral risk factors.

It is undeniable therefore, that among the Non-Communicable Diseases, Diabetes, remain a potent threat to the Ministry of Health and the quality of life of the Federation’s citizens. Hence, we as a federation must collaboratively advance the fight against this scourge of a condition-Diabetes.

Consequently, the Ministry of Health joins with the world and the Diabetes Associations every year on 14 November, designated as ‘World Diabetes Day’ by the United Nations to raise awareness of Diabetes and related complications and to promote prevention and care through education and individual empowerment.

It is against this backdrop, therefore, that I am confident that increasingly, the Federation continues to invest in the necessary resources to enable higher levels of clients’ access to the vital primary and tertiary levels of care to counteract the incidence and reduce the burden of Diabetes associated morbidity and mortality in the Federation in the overall fight against NCDs.

However, citizens, the harsh reality is, we must be committed and persistent in our efforts to foster healthier living habits. All of us must! To this end, I implore everyone to embrace the Ministry’s SKN Moves programme, which focuses on healthy eating, increased physical activity and regular health screenings to decrease the burden of NCDs on the healthcare sector, and the significant negative impact on individuals, families, and communities. I also urge everyone to take full advantage of the quality services available in the Federation including access to the life-saving medicine-insulin.

As Minister of Health, I am therefore pleased to deliver remarks in observance of World Diabetes Day on Monday, 14 November and the Diabetes Association of St Kitts’ Week of Activities, November 13 to 20, 2022.

I am elated that the local Diabetes Association continues to collaborate with the Ministry of Health to bring awareness to Diabetes and mitigate against the incidence of Diabetes because we need ‘all hands on deck’ to confront this disease.

Further, I am delighted that the Diabetes Association is partnering with the International Diabetes Federation to espouse and advance this year’s theme: “Access to Diabetes Care: Education to Protect Tomorrow” The theme aptly amplifies the message regarding the importance of increasing access to diabetes prevention and care to enhance the quality of life of people living with diabetes by addressing by addressing the common risk factors through education.

Thus, the Diabetes Association of St Kitts will be engaging in a week of activities over the period 
November 13 to 19, 2022 to emphasize the message that individually, collectively, and consistently, we should ensure that every affected person has access to education and the care required.

 As such, the Association’s activities surround educational and outreach sessions to include:

  • A Church Service at the Pro-Cathedral of St Georges, Basseterre-8 30 a.m, Sunday, 13th November
  • A Round Table Panel Discussions on Access to Diabetic Care at ZIZ ,8:30 p.m. Monday, 15th November
  • Schools’ Symposia, Monday 14 to Thursday 17th November
  • Annual Diabetes Screening Day- Independence Square, Friday, 18th November
  • The week concludes on Saturday, 19th, with a “World Diabetes Day Grand Walk, in support of persons with Diabetes, starting at the War Memorial at 6 a.m.                         

The Ministry of Health notably recognizes the critical role being played by the St Kitts Diabetes Association to combat Diabetes and its complications and thus applauds the Association for recognizing the imperative and undertaking its mission denoted in the acronym-TEEM which stands for
T- test regularly
E- exercise regularly
E- eat wisely
M- comply with the recommendations for prescribed medication and care.

I am left in no doubt that if the concept of TEEM is embraced by persons with Diabetes and other citizens, there would be a significant decrease in the incidence and severity of complications. The Ministry hereby issues a clarion call for citizens to “buy-in” to TEEM and to rally with the Diabetes Association recognizing that partnerships with entities such as National Diabetic Associations are critically important.

Consequently, the prime purpose of this week, therefore, is to fundamentally accelerate awareness of Diabetes and to propel citizens to access the essential primary health care services available to persons with Diabetes and to garner greater societal support to mitigate against the negative implications of the disease.

 I strongly encourage all citizens and residents to come on board and support and participate in the Association’s Week of Activities. You are also encouraged to wear something “blue” to demonstrate your support.

On behalf of the Ministry of Health, I commend the executive and members, of this robust Association for their steady meritorious service to the Federation and wish the Association much success and longevity in its endeavours.

Do know that the Ministry of Health remains resolute in its commitment to mitigate against the disease and during this commemorative period stands in strong solidarity, with all persons and families living with Diabetes.

It gives me much pleasure therefore to officially declare the St Kitts Diabetes Association’s Week of Activities open. 

Thank you and may God continue to bless the people of St Kitts and Nevis.

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