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Doctors warn of diabetes timebomb
Doctors in Indian are educating the public on diabetes
Experts are warning that the number of people in the developing world with diabetes is set to almost triple in the next 20 years.

Doctors predict that millions of people will be affected in Africa and Asia.

Experts said signs of the increase are already being seen and suggest this is being caused by people adopting western-style lifestyles - fattier diets and more sedentary lives.

The clinics are inundated with patients

Dr Ranjan Yajnik, KEM Hospital
However, the rise is also linked to increased rates of detection.

Dr Ranjan Yajnik, a diabetologist at KEM Hospital in Pune in India, said 60 million people in his country would have the disease by 2025.

"The problem is increasing very rapidly.

"The clinics are inundated with patients and just now there are 25 million in India, likely to increase to about 60m in 20 years time."

He added: "We are seeing younger and younger patients and now the average age of the diagnosis of diabetes is below 40 years of age and in the last few years we have seeing type 2 diabetic children."

Sharp increases

The increases are expected in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes - also known as insulin-dependent or immune-mediated diabetes - usually emerges in children or young adults. They need daily insulin injections to control blood sugar levels. Without out they would die.

Type 2, or non-insulin dependent diabetes, is the most common form of the disease and usually occurs in people over the age of 45 who are overweight. Blood sugar levels can be controlled with exercise and improvements in diet.

Dr Ferdinand Mugusi, who works at the Muhimbili Medical Centre in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, has established new treatment schemes aimed at tackling the problem in his country.

The schemes aim to provide medical care in the community.

Traditionally, they would have gone to hospital for medical care.

Dr Yajnik
Dr Yajnik predicts 60m diabetics in India by 2025
"As the number of patients increases I do not think that hospitals will be able to manage so that's the reason why we are trying currently to develop a system so that these patients can then be managed at primary healthcare facilities."

Speaking on the BBC World Service programme Health Matters, he said: "We are trying our level best to try to develop a system in which primary healthcare facilities can take care of patients."

He added: "We would like primary healthcare workers to be able to diagnose diabetes, to be able to educate patients on ways in which one can avoid developing diabetes and be able to treat diabetes at this level."

Better detection

Dr Mugusi said the schemes were identifying more people with the disease.

"Within the pilot clinics we have been running we have found out that as primary healthcare facilities are nearer to people there has been an increase in the diagnosis of latent diabetes."

He said doctors in the area were hoping their project would encourage government officials to introduce a nation-wide scheme to help people with diabetes and other non-infectious diseases, such as hypertension, asthma and epilepsy.

"The Ministry of Health has started realising that the numbers of patients with non-infectious diseases is increasing so the ministry is trying to set up a unit within the Ministry of Health which will look into non-infectious diseases and how they can be managed properly.

"The next step is to try and get most of the information from our pilot clinics in which we are currently working to present tot he Ministry of Health so that this programme can then be expanded into other districts as well."

This story is featured in the radio programme Health Matters on the BBC World Service.

Click here for listening times

See also:

19 Aug 99 | Health
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