Unraveling the 2023 Diabetes Epidemic in Pakistan: Causes, Challenges, and Solutions
December 27, 2023
In 2023, Pakistan faces an escalating diabetes crisis, as disclosed in a recent report. Shockingly, over 33 million adults in the South Asian nation grapple with diabetes, ranking it third globally. Alarming health statistics indicate a rising trend, prompting urgent concerns from Pakistani health experts.
The Global Standing of Pakistan in Diabetes
A report by the International Diabetic Federation (IDF) positioned Pakistan as the third-highest country in the world for adults (20–79 years) with diabetes. The prevalence rate stands at a staggering 30.8%, surpassing all other nations. Notably, Pakistan also leads in deaths under 60 due to diabetes, with a concerning 35.5%.
Implications and Risks
The IDF's findings reveal that an additional 11 million adults in Pakistan harbor Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT), elevating their risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Alarmingly, more than a quarter (26.9%) of diabetes cases in Pakistan remain undiagnosed, intensifying the urgency for action.
Root Causes of the Surge
1. Healthcare Budget and Accessibility
Dr. Abdul Ghafoor Shoro highlights the diminishing health budget, causing closures of vital services for diabetes treatment. Rising healthcare costs, especially for medicines like insulin, have become a barrier to access, exacerbating the crisis.
2. Poverty's Role
Dr. Fatema Jawad emphasizes the impact of poverty on diabetes, citing the unaffordability of medicines for the majority earning less than $3 a day. Malnutrition compounds the issue, with 22% of the population living below the poverty line.
3. Education Gap
A lack of affordable education in rural areas contributes to a lack of awareness about diabetes. Many only seek medical advice when complications arise, a factor exacerbated by the prevalence of illiteracy in these regions.
4. Cultural and Dietary Influences
Traditional beliefs, religious practices, and the distribution of sugary snacks during festivals contribute to unhealthy dietary habits. Lack of exercise, obesity, and limited public spaces compound the issue, according to experts like Ashraf Nizami.
Government Initiatives and Challenges
Senator Sana Jamali assures that the government is taking steps to address the crisis. Health insurance cards in Punjab aim to alleviate the burden on diabetic patients. However, she emphasizes that a holistic approach is necessary, with lifestyle and dietary changes crucial for lasting solutions.
As Pakistan grapples with a diabetes surge in 2023, urgent, multifaceted interventions are imperative. Balancing healthcare budgets, addressing poverty, promoting education, and fostering awareness are critical steps toward a healthier future.