The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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WHO sounds alarm on diabetes spurt

Chennai, May 4: The number of diabetics in India is expected to register a “formidable growth” from 32 million at present to 57 million by 2025, according to estimates by the World Health Organisation.

The disease has become a major public-health concern in India, which has the largest number of diabetics, said Dr Rakesh Mittal, deputy director-general of the Delhi-based Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), at a national workshop on “Guidelines for management of type two diabetes” here.

Increasing hypertension, an irregular lifestyle and food habits are said to be the major causes of the increase in diabetes, particularly in urban areas, Mittal added at the three-day event, which was organised by the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation and is sponsored by ICMR and WHO.

If left unchecked, diabetes could lead to “serious complications affecting the eyes, kidneys, heart and feet”, the delegates at the workshop were told.

Although a National Diabetic Control Programme — with emphasis on primary- and secondary-level prevention — had been conceived in India as long ago as 1986, it did not take off, Mittal told the inaugural session.

In 2000, it was decided to merge the plan with ICMR’s programme, he said, adding that an expert group had since been working on this multi-faceted disease.

At present, there are no “national guidelines” for the management of diabetes. Evolving a “national consensus” on such guidelines with the help of diabetologists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, nephrologists and nutritionists from all parts of India would help produce uniform and standard treatment procedures across the country, asserted Mittal.

ICMR director-general Dr N.K. Ganguly, who was to preside over the workshop could not do so because of the government’s preoccupation with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Union health minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to the ICMR office in Delhi on Saturday, he said.

MGR Medical University vice-chancellor C.V. Bhirmanandham said the fast-food culture and lack of prudent diet habits among people in urban areas were the major causes of the increase in the proportion of people with diabetes in India — from 11.50 per cent a few years ago to 16 per cent now.

Bhirmanandham said medical education should become part of school curricula so that healthy practices could be inculcated in the young as a step towards controlling the spread of the disease.

The diabetes research foundation president, Dr V. Mohan, said his organisation, which has one of the largest electronic records of diabetic patients in the world — with 95,000 people registered — had taken up a massive screening programme for the disease among 35,000 autorickshaw drivers in Chennai.

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