‘Pakistan ranks 3rd in prevalence of diabetes in world after China and India’

M. Waqar Bhatti
Sunday, Oct 10, 2021

Pakistan is now ranked third in the prevalence of diabetes following China and India, and according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Diabetes Atlas 10th Edition, which is going to be released on November 14, 2021, around 33 million people are living with diabetes in the country, officials and experts said on Friday.

“Pakistan has surpassed the United States of America in the number of diabetics and now ranks third in the world in the prevalence of diabetes where 33 million are living with diabetes following China and India. These are the unofficial figures as official data would be presented in the 10th edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas to be released on November 14 this year,” Prof Abdul Basit, a member of IDF Diabetes Atlas Committee, said while speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Karachi.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Health Research Advisory Board (HealthRAB) and a local pharmaceutical firm for the creation of a “Diabetes Registry of Pakistan” (DROP) for people with Type 2 diabetes, people with diabetic foot ulcers, for people with peripheral vascular disease and women with gestational diabetes.

Prof Basit, who is also the director of Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology (BIDE), Karachi, and vice chairman of the Health Research Advisory Board (HealthRAB), maintained that a “similar number” of people in Pakistan had borderline diabetes, and if immediate action was not taken, the number of diabetics could be doubled in the country soon.

“As per the IDF Diabetes Atlas 9th Edition published in 2019, around 19.4 million were diabetics in Pakistan, but within last two years, when most of the physical activities came to a halt due to the pandemic, 13.6 million more people have become diabetics in the country, which is extremely alarming for the health experts as well as the policymakers,” he said and added that Pakistan is now ahead of the USA, which has 32 million diabetics in a population of 330 million people.

According to the health expert, around 10 million children of 8-10 years of age are facing childhood obesity in Pakistan, and if immediate steps are not taken, these children will also become diabetics in the next few years and could die even before their patients due to cardiometabolic disorders, which include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic renal failure.

“It is the right time when we should close down all schools which are without playgrounds, as there is a need to involve children in compulsory physical activity of at least one hour a day. It is also imperative that our adults also modify their lifestyle and resort to physical activities to remain fit and healthy,” Prof Abdul remarked.

Briefing about the Diabetes Registry of Pakistan (DROP), he said they started the diabetes registry for children with Type 1 Diabetes, but its prevalence was very low, which was around 0.1 million in the country, but there was a need to find the actual number of people with Type 2 diabetes to standardise the healthcare they were receiving to prevent the amputation rate and improve their quality of life.

Lauding the financial and technological contribution from the pharmaceutical firm Pharmevo in the field of research, he said now the cloud technology would be used to register the details of millions of diabetics, their age, gender and other information.

“HealthRAB is now running seven registries of different diseases while around 7-8 registries are in the pipeline. International institutions like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Harvard University are following our models while Harvard University is going to implement our Changing Diabetes in Children (CDC) in 14 countries of the world,” Prof Basit said.

Speaking on the occasion, the managing sirector of the local pharmaceutical firm, Haroon Qasim, said data was now more valuable than the oil and all policies were being prepared and implemented on the basis of accurate data, but unfortunately, Pakistan lacked data regarding different health conditions among its population and so was unable to prepare health policies accordingly.

“The establishment of the Diabetes Registry of Pakistan (DROP) would help us ascertain the data of our population and prepare the health policies accordingly. We don’t have our homegrown data unfortunately, but these registries would help us in this regard.”

Syed Jamshed Ahmed, the deputy CEO of the pharmaceutical firm, said their company believed in initiating and supporting research in the field of health as it was the only way forward in prevention of diseases.