Older activists in Tanzania will today join a global campaign calling for action to tackle the growing health threat caused by diabetes through screening, testing, treatment and education.
The actions, taking place on this World Health Day, which is being commemorated under the theme: “Beat Diabetes: Scale up Prevention, Strengthen Care and Enhance Surveillance”, are part of HelpAge International’s annual Age Demands Action campaigns led by older activists from across the world to draw attention to the challenges they face.
Without diagnosis, care and treatment, older men and women with diabetes are more at risk of developing complications and other non-communicable diseases than younger people.
Diabetes is one of the four major non-communicable diseases (NCDs), along with cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and chronic respiratory disease. Prevalence of diabetes increases with age in many countries. Around 9 per cent of the world’s adult population are thought to have diabetes and, according to the World Health Organisation, it will be the seventh leading cause of death globally by 2030.
Diabetes is major cause of poor health and death
Abdallah Majumbah (76), a local rights campaigner for older people in Lindi said, “diabetes is a major cause of poor health and death among older men and women in my community. The lack of medical services at our health centres and dispensaries coupled with mobility challenges to access services at district hospitals, further complicates the situation”.
“I call up on the government and other stakeholders to provide education on proper diet and health habits to us, and ensure drugs are available and affordable in all health facilities, if efforts aimed at managing the disease are to succeed”, said Abdallah.
“In 2001 and 2002, there were a few clinics managing diabetes. Awareness of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) was almost non-existent”, said Dr Hamis Kigwangala, Deputy Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Children and the Elderly, recently in Dar es Salaam at an international forum discussing challenges faced in implementing national diabetes programmes.
“But it is pleasing to note that currently there are diabetes clinics at all zonal, regional and district hospitals in the country. More than 2,400 health care providers have so far been trained in the diagnosis and management of diabetes” added Dr Kigwangala.
Older people missing from data on diabetes
The Sustainable Development Goals, adopted at the UN last September, commit member states to ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’ and include a target on reducing mortality from NCDs. However, the extent to which older people are affected is still unclear due to poor collection, analysis and presentation of data.
“Much of the data on diabetes either ignores older people or doesn’t disaggregate by age”, said Toby Porter, Chief Executive Officer at HelpAge International. “For countries to monitor the progress of these commitments they need to gather comprehensive data on diabetes and other non-communicable diseases for people of all ages and to disaggregate this data by age and sex at a minimum”.
Active Ageing Groups help prevent non communicable diseases
In the past years, HelpAge International has been working in three districts to prevent and promote awareness of non-communicable diseases through community-based actions. Active Ageing Groups formed in the project areas have created an enabling environment for older men and women to conduct physical exercise, receive information on diet and good health habits, while regular screening and home visits by health providers have opened the gateway for treatment.
Older people are calling for increased attention to ensure older men and women access regular preventative and curative affordable services as provided by the free health care policy so that preventable and manageable chronic conditions such as diabetics do not become debilitating diseases.
For media enquiries and spokespeople contact:
Sarah Gillam, Media Relations Manager
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7148 7623
Mobile: + 44 (0) 7713 567 624
Ed Knight, Media Intern
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7148 7606
Find out more about World Health Day.
Age Demands Action is a grassroots campaign challenging age discrimination in over 60 countries. This year two new partners in Liberia and Nigeria will join ADA for the first time. Thursday’s actions follow on from actions in October when older people came together to celebrate ageing and call for a convention protecting their rights.
For more information on the actions or the Age Demands Action campaign contact:
Jemma Stovell, Campaigns Officer
You can follow the #WHD2016 #Diabetes #BeatNCDs conversation on social media.