Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, November 23rd 2010 [ME NewsWire]:

The global risk from diabetes could cripple healthcare systems unless change is implemented soon. Screening pregnant women to detect gestational diabetes can minimise that risk.

Worldwide, the number of people suffering from diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that 285 million people live with this disease in 2010. By 2030 that figure will reach 438 million people. Diabetes is a chronic non-communicable disease (NCD) that currently has no cure. If not managed properly, it can lead to serious complications, including amputations, blindness, kidney failure, strokes and heart disease.

One factor affecting the problem is poor maternal health. Pre-natal children suffering malnutrition (ironically both over-nutrition and under-nutrition) risk developing diabetes and other lifestyle related NCDs later in life. Mothers who develop diabetes during pregnancy or gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) run a high risk of developing fully-fledged type 2 diabetes later in life.

Having diabetes is difficult. Having diabetes as a woman can be even worse. Women die from and are hospitalised due to diabetes-related complications more often than men. Developing diabetes during pregnancy (GDM) endangers them and their children. Women are often at a disadvantage for getting diagnosed and receiving proper treatment. In addition, children born to mothers with diabetes have higher risks of developing diabetes during their lifetime.

GDM has far-reaching implications for controlling diabetes in the future, both mothers with GDM and their babies have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in later life. GDM is known to be increasing in prevalence in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region. Indeed, the International Diabetes Federation estimates that it now affects up to 20% of pregnancies across the MENA region, ranging from 5-8% in Iran, 5.4% in Algeria, over 12-14% in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to 20% in the UAE. The prevalence in the UAE was found to be similar across ethnic and cultural groups with prevalence of 20- 22% in East African Arabs, people from the Indian Subcontinent, UAE nationals and Chaami Arabs, but it was somewhat lower, 13-16%, among North African Arabs and Asian Arabs.[1]

At the moment, one major problem concerns those women from low- and middle-income communities without access to information and routine screenings for GDM. Intervention during pregnancy and at the beginning of life could contribute to turning the tide of the threatening diabetes pandemic.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals & women’s health

The United Nations Millennium Declaration was adopted in 2000, calling to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. To make the commitments more manageable, 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were selected. A target for achieving the goals was set for 2015 at the latest, to underline the urgency of the commitments.

In November 2007, the Danish Government announced the launch of an international campaign to promote Millennium Development Goal No. 3 (MDG3) on gender equality and women’s empowerment ‘A Call to Action in Support of MDG3’. As part of the prioritisation of the Danish development assistance, support to women’s rights and empowerment would also be doubled from 2008 to 2010. The Danish Minister for Development Cooperation established an MDG3 Champion Network on 7 March 2008, which calls on all actors to “Do Something Extra” in support of gender equality and women empowerment.

On 20 August 2008, the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation handed Lise Kingo, executive vice president and chief of staffs of Novo Nordisk, a MDG3 Champion Torch. This torch symbolises that Novo Nordisk is committed to creating awareness of how diabetes impedes development. Addressing the global diabetes epidemic and creating a healthy, sustainable development is Novo Nordisk’s contribution to the achievement of MDG3 and part of the company’s social responsibility efforts. Novo Nordisk believes that a better understanding of diabetes in relation to women and development will help curb the diabetes epidemic.

Lise Kingo stated that ‘by empowering women with diabetes and at risk of developing diabetes we aim, not only to reduce the mortality rate of women with diabetes, but also to positively affect the overall diabetes curve. As it is often women who are the caretakers of a family, it is through them that we can address both prevention and better control of diabetes. At Novo Nordisk, we are committed to making progress on MDG3 through education, advocacy and screening programmes’.

As a result, in 2009, Novo Nordisk launched its Changing Diabetes® in Pregnancy programme. This new and broader commitment encourages action and a more holistic and integrated approach to improving the health of women and their children.

Currently, the principle goal is to diagnose more pregnant women with gestational and pre-gestational diabetes through more avid screening programmes. Diagnosis offers the ability to reduce risks in pregnant women with diabetes and their offspring through improved care and lifestyle education. Most women visit a healthcare facility at least once during pregnancy, so this can be a valuable opportunity to offer screening for other diseases and advice on diet and a healthier lifestyle for the whole family.

Three ways Novo Nordisk is working to improve this are:

· Working to develop and test sustainable solutions for screening, treatment and care of gestational diabetes

· Promoting awareness amongst healthcare professionals and policy-makers

· Creating opportunities to link with other global health initiatives

The MENA Diabetes Leadership Forum, exclusively sponsored by Novo Nordisk, will take place 12th – 13th December in Dubai, UAE. Diabetes is an important and growing public health concern for the MENA region. The Forum aims to put in place nation-specific action plans with clear steps on how to prioritise diabetes on national agendas. They will look at how best to; dedicate resources, train healthcare professionals, detect diabetes and raise awareness. One specific issue they will be raising in discussions is the central role of women in protecting family and society from diabetes and other non-communicable diseases in this region.

UN Global Strategy on Health of Women and Children

At the ‘Every Woman, Every Child, A summary of the commitments promised by the MDGs’ special event during the MDG Summit on 22nd September 2010, the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki moon officially launched the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. This global effort on women’s and children’s health was developed by a wide range of stakeholders and sets out how we can work together to improve the health of women and children.

This strategy should go towards improving reproductive health services, including maternal and child health, family planning and nutrition programmes in low- and middle-income countries.

Novo Nordisk commits to continue to work towards improving the health of women and children with a specific focus on screening, treatment and care for gestational diabetes and will develop a partnership‐based programme, as part of a long‐term commitment to sustainable improvement in health, through which the company will campaign for universal screening for gestational diabetes; support the development of new evidence and platforms for action by addressing critical research gaps; mobilise key stakeholders at national and global levels to promote change with a positive health impact for women and the next generation; engage key partners in exploring and co‐creating innovative solutions targeting women, diabetes and pregnancy.

[1] Diabetes: the Hidden Pandemic and its Impact on the Middle East and North Africa, edited by Prof Dr Tawfik Ahmed Khoja, Dr Kamal Al-Shoumer, Prof Riad Sulaimani, Prof Mohsen Ali Faris Al-Hazmi, Dr Jonathan Betz Brown, Prof Sherif Hafez, Prof Dr Khalid Al-Rubean, Prof Kamel Ajlouni, Prof Mohamed Belhadj, Prof Alireza Esteghamati, Prof Dr Ibrahim Salti, Bjorn Ekman and Dr Enis Barıs.

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