Why It Matters

Do more in diabetes battle

The latest World Diabetes Atlas did not say anything new where Singapore is concerned - that the prevalence of diabetes here is among the highest in the world.

But that in itself is a matter of great concern.

Diabetes is a largely preventable and controllable disease. Yet one in nine adults here is diabetic, with many not knowing they have the disease till a major problem crops up.

Even among those who are aware and receiving treatment, many are unable to keep their blood sugar at desired levels as doing so requires willpower - to eat healthily and exercise regularly.

So in Singapore, in spite of the good healthcare available, diabetes is still a top cause of blindness, kidney failure and amputations. Perhaps of even greater worry is that people here are getting diabetes younger - in their 30s and 40s. This means having to live with the problem for many decades.

The United States, which has just pipped Singapore with the most diabetics among developed nations, estimates that this one disease alone cost the country US$245 billion (S$342 billion) in 2012.

In Singapore, it is the main cause of years lost to disease in both men and women.

The cost of diabetes for the 400,000 diabetics here is estimated at $1.6 billion a year, or $4,000 a person. Given the high cost of the disease, greater effort needs to be made at the national level to prevent it where possible, and to identify and treat those who are already diabetic early.

To make it easier for diabetics to eat healthily, every restaurant, foodcourt and hawker centre should have a choice of diabetic-friendly meals.

Similarly, supermarkets here should have a diabetic-friendly section, as many countries do.

Given that more than 11 per cent of the adult population suffers from the disease, offering diabetic-friendly food is not just socially correct, but makes great economic sense too.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline 'Do more in diabetes battle'. Print Edition | Subscribe