Bahamas Leads The World In Diabetes Prevalence

ace-symposium-seminar-2015-eDiabetes spares no organ, the eyes, the brain, the feet, the heart. You name it, and it can be affected. The disease is due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced. If left untreated, diabetes can cause a number of complications, some of them quite serious. Diabetes doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease, and about 75 percent of deaths in diabetics are due to coronary artery disease.

In 2005 the Communicable Disease Prevalence Study was conducted by the Ministry of Health. It showed that 6.7 percent of the local population, about 23,000 people, were pre-diabetic, and 9.2 percent, around 32,000 people, had diabetes.

According to figures released by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), in 2014 The Bahamas had 34,900 people with diabetes. The figures did not include those who are pre-diabetic.

“When we look at the world overall, The Bahamas is leading in the prevalence of diabetes in the entire world,” said Dr. Graham Cates, president of ACE Diabetes, which was established in 2012 to address the overwhelming need in The Bahamas for diabetes awareness and the challenge of managing diabetes on a daily basis.

“The disease is multifactorial. We know that lifestyle is one of the leading causes of diabetes, but there is also the genetic predisposition. In The Bahamas we have a very high genetic predisposition, so you combine that with poor lifestyle choices, it’s like a time bomb. So when you talk about prevention through health promotion and health education, these are essential tools that unfortunately a lot of Bahamians are not aware of, or are not willing to make the necessary changes required to have a positive impact on their health,” noted Cates.

“You are talking about good nutrition practices. We have become a culture of fast food, it’s easy, it’s quick, it’s simple, but it’s high in carbohydrates, sugar and fat. We know that it has a negative impact on health and increases the risk of diabetes. Certainly the nutritional aspect is critical. We also know that physical activity has diminished locally and globally, because of job requirements, technology, the increase in transportation available, and the end result is increased incidence of obesity. As this continues to rise in The Bahamas, as well as globally, we will continue to see a high incidence of conditions like diabetes.”

ACE Diabetes was established in 2012 by Cates and his wife Anita Cates to address the overwhelming need in The Bahamas in regards to diabetes. It is a non-profit organization. “ACE” stands for “awareness, compassion and education”. Its goal is to reduce the burden of diabetes and its long-term complications in The Bahamas.

“One of our strategies is through the ACE Diabetes Expo that will occur on November 14,” said Cates. “It is a free, public event, no charge for admission, it’s from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the New Providence Community Center. We will have over 50 healthcare professionals there providing free health information, free health screenings, eye examinations, dental examinations, foot examinations; there will also be prizes, giveaways, as a part of helping to increase awareness in terms of prevention and the management of diabetes in The Bahamas. We feel that ACE Diabetes is poised to have a significant impact on this ever-growing problem through the expo. The other significant event we have going on is the healthcare professionals diabetes seminar on November 13. This is a continuing education component of ACE Diabetes.”

Dr. Charles Diggiss, chief medical officer at Doctors Hospital and president/CEO of the MedNet Group of Companies, and Dr. Janine Sanchez, associate professor and director of pediatric diabetes at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, will speak at ACE Diabetes’ third annual seminar for healthcare professionals.

Diggiss will speak on the topic “Bariatric surgery and diabetes”. Specifically, he will be focus on the question, “Why should I have a gastric restrictive procedure to control my diabetes and reverse my obesity?”

Sanchez, who has been involved in diabetes research, including immune studies, prevention studies, insulin trials and psychological treatment studies, will address the topic of diabetes and teens.

The theme for this year’s seminar is “Mission possible: Diabetes down”.

“I believe we can reduce the incidence of diabetes locally, but it will take a global approach through government, non-governmental organizations partnering together through public-private partnerships,” said Cates. A significant component of the disease is related to lifestyle and that is the area we need to emphasize in terms of prevention and management, and increase the scope of information available. I strongly believe we can reduce not only the overall number of people with diabetes, but also the burden of diabetes in those persons that have it,” he added.

Moving forward, ACE Diabetes wants to create a firm foundation for diabetes education throughout The Bahamas. “We would like to do this by using diabetes educators to get out into the community and get the message out about prevention and the management of diabetes,” said Cates. “These educators are specifically trained to deliver this message. As part of our continuing development, we would like to get more diabetes educators certified, access additional funding to be able to go out into the communities, the churches, civic and non-civic organizations, and not just Nassau but the Family Islands.

“For example we have partnered with One Eleuthera which does a lot of work on the island. We do a health symposium with them once a year. We did our third symposium in August and we have planned again for next year, so that is another event that we are involved in. We are committed to continuing the diabetes expo and see that grow, where we can bring in additional international speakers, we can collect scientific data locally that can be presented at the conference, and really help to elevate the information and resources available to healthcare providers within our community.”

The Nassau Guardian

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