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Silent-killer threat to city cops under scan

The city police are under the scanner. The Diabetes Association of India (DAI), West Bengal branch, has embarked upon a novel initiative to unearth what percentage of the cops has fallen prey to the silent-killer disease, that already has a 33 million-plus reported incidence in the country.

“For the first time in India, we have undertaken a comprehensive, longitudinal and epidemiological study on the prevalence, complications and management of diabetes, being conducted on police personnel,” said S. Kumar, president of the DAI state chapter, on Friday, World Diabetes Day.

The study, being conducted in three stages, has a sample size of 5,000 policemen, and the initial screening is expected to be over by March 2004.

The first phase, already completed, scanned 1,291 policemen, 80 per cent of them below 40 years of age. “The overall incidence of diabetes was 6.5 per cent, which is likely to increase four-fold among the 40-plus segment. But the alarming part was that most of them were not even aware that they had the disease. Even among those who knew, control was poor,” Kumar said.

The DAI has chosen the police force for this unique study since it is “easier to keep track of them and monitor relevant parameters over a long period of time”, according to Subhankar Chowdhury, vice-president of the state branch of the association. The parameters being estimated are blood glucose and blood pressure levels, obesity, glycosylated haemoglobin and the microalbumin-creatinine ratio in urine. Pharmaceuticals major Nicholas Piramal has come forward to sponsor the estimations.

“The only such study in the world on a police force was done in Helsinki over a period of 22 years from 1972 to 1994,” said Kumar. He acknowledged that the initiative would never have taken off without the “full-blooded support” of Calcutta Police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty and special additional commissioner of police (traffic) Sandhi Mukherjee.

In the second phase, the study will move into different police stations, including traffic and port police, “where we will come across more 40-plus personnel”, said Chowdhury. Those found to be diabetic will be treated, counselled and monitored by doctors under the DAI fold over an extended period to map control and allied complications.

“The findings of this painstaking study will be published and submitted to the health department and the Medical Association of India to facilitate research,” said Kumar. At the moment, all study data is preserved at the Police Lines, Alipore. “We also want to explode the myth that diabetes is a rich man’s disease. The incidence among the middle-income group is alarmingly on the rise and the epidemic WHO had predicted is already upon us,” the state branch president added.

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