Diabetes awareness is a continuous effort, said Maria Malua T. Peter, with various agencies working together to combat this non-communicable disease that has become the scourge in the CNMI. The program does not end after the signing of a proclamation or the month-long activities of the annual event end.
“It is not like after the proclamation then we leave it here. We must make sure it is a continuous effort where we need to follow up on the programs that are in place. It does not end here,” said Peter, chairperson of the CNMI Diabetes Coalition, in Monday’s proclamation signing declaring November as Diabetes Prevention and Awareness Month.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed one of two proclamations at the Office of the Governor’s conference room on Capitol Hill, the other declaring November as National Family Caregivers Month.
Peter said the proclamation should serve as a constant reminder of diabetes and its effects on the community. “The proclamation serves as a reminder of this particular issue. We must continue to work together.”
“We must all take part and do our share. If we fail, we fail together. As much as possible we want all to be healthy and have an active lifestyle. To be responsible and mindful of what eat. We must show good examples and walk the talk,” she said.
While people in the community love to eat, there are a lot of healthier food choices like fresh vegetables, fish, and fruits that could be served in beach parties and other gatherings, Peter said.
She said that they also started the “Water, Water, Water” campaign at the Northern Marianas College-Cooperative Research, Extension, and Education Service program where they serve bottled water instead of soda and sugar-filled drinks.
Diabetes has become a common non-communicable diseases in the CNMI where one in eight adults are diagnosed with diabetes or high sugar level. There is also a high rate among the elderly and the indigenous population, the Chamorros and Carolinians.
Data collected by the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s Center for Dialysis showed a 126-percent increase in its newly registered renal dialysis patients in 2012 compared to the previous year.
Majority of patients suffer from Type II diabetes that is characterized by high blood sugar, insulin resistance or lack of it, with increased thirst, frequent urination, and unexplained weight loss as the most common symptoms.
Diabetes also leads to kidney failure, blindness, amputation, and one of the contributors of heart attacks, strokes, and hypertension.
Making healthier food choices, daily exercise, and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle are some of the ways to prevent and combat non-communicable disease in the CNMI.
The World Health Organization has also released a report last year where non-communicable diseases like diabetes were the cause of 75 percent of deaths in the Pacific. Forty-seven percent of people with diabetes have lost their sight and an estimated 17 percent require amputations.
The NCD Bureau, headed by acting administrator Becky Robles, along with the Ayuda Network, CHCC, the CNMI Diabetes Coalition, and the Division of Public Health are some of the agencies that have been at the forefront of combating diabetes and other NCDs in the Commonwealth.