World Diabetes Day 2017: A special focus on women

Dr Amitava Acharyya, CNS Correspondent, India
Worldwide World Diabetes Day (WDD) is held on the 14th of November. The theme of this year’s World Diabetes Day campaign is ‘Women and diabetes - our right to a healthy future’. This theme is aimed at increasing awareness around diabetes in women at risk of or living with diabetes around the world.

According to International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the aim of this campaign is “promoting the importance of affordable and equitable access, for all women at risk of or living with diabetes, to essential diabetes medicines and technologies, self-management education and information they require to achieve optimal diabetes treatment outcomes and to strengthen their capacity to prevent type 2 diabetes” .

Globally, one in ten women are living with diabetes. In other words, currently there are over 199 million women with diabetes in the world, and this number is projected to increase to 313 million by 2040. Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women, killing 2.1 million of them every year globally. Women with type 2 diabetes are almost 10 times more likely to have coronary heart disease than women without the condition.Women with type 1 diabetes have an increased risk of early miscarriage or having a baby with malformations.

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is near about same in women and men. But women face an extra burden due to increasing prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). The peculiar socioeconomic conditions, particularly in developing countries, also act as barriers in accessing cost-effective diabetes prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care for women and girls.

The prevalence of GDM has dramatically increased in the past 20 years among various ethnic groups. One in seven births is affected with GDM. IDF estimates that as of 2015, 16.2% of women with live births had some form of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy, 85% of which were due to GDM. Asian women are more prone to develop GDM than European women and Indian women have an 11 fold increased risk of developing glucose intolerance in pregnancy compared to Caucasian women. Women with GDM have an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, and in such cases both mother and child are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, women with past GDM also have higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases in later life.

Some studies point to the unhealthy increase of body weight during pregnancy as an independent risk-factor for developing GDM during the next pregnancy or for developing type 2 diabetes mellitus in later life. Evidence shows that micro-nutrients’ deficiency during pregnancy also related with type 2 diabetes mellitus in women.

AMD Annals Initiative, a model of continuous monitoring and improvement of the quality of diabetes care, found that despite equal access to specialist care and universal coverage of healthcare costs, gender disparities for successful diabetes treatment still exist. It also opens a new domain of diabetes related operational research based on gender specific matters.

Women have an important role in their families as they can influence food and lifestyle choices at home. In Indian families, women play a major role in motivating their family members to adopt healthy lifestyle. Women comprise half of the world’s population and they spend more time with her children and old aged people of her family. They can help the family members to adopt a healthy lifestyle to prevent diabetes and other related co morbidities for maintaining their quality of life.

The theme of this year’s WDD could inspire women to take up a pivotal role in prevention, control and care of diabetes and help themselves and others to lead diabetes- free quality lives. It is imperative that all women with diabetes get affordable and equitable access to care and education to better manage their diabetes and improve their health. Unless we ensure a healthy life for women, it would be foolhardy to expect them to take care of the health of other family members.

Dr Amitava Acharyya, Citizen News Service - CNS
November 14, 2017