Africa: Paying Tribute to Nurses for Making a Difference in the Prevention and Control of Diabetes

The contribution of the nurses in the prevention and control of diabetes was highly recognized during the commemoration of the World Diabetes Day on 16 November 2020 at the Ebene Business Park of Mauritius. Dr Hon Kailesh Kumar Singh Jagutpal, Minister of Health and Wellness acknowledged the vital role of the nurses who represent more than fifty percent of the total health workforce in the country and worldwide. It was a great opportunity to pay tribute to the nurses who are at the forefront of the public health care system with this year theme “The Nurses and Diabetes”.

“Unfortunately, the number of diabetic cases is continuously increasing across the globe. We are aware that more emphasis should be laid on prevention of diabetes and sensitization of all Mauritians on the risk factors so that we can prevent diabetes”, said Dr Hon K.K. Jagutpal, Minister of Health and Wellness.

“One out of two persons living with diabetes does not even know that he or she is diabetic, and this is a matter of concern as we know the complications that are associated with diabetes”, added Dr Hon K.K. Jagutpal.

The high prevalence of prediabetes in the country is also a matter of concern for the Health Minister who highlighted the main risk factors for diabetes including the lack of physical activity, smoking, alcohol abuse and unhealthy diets.

Dr Laurent Musango, WHO Representative in Mauritius, in his address, pointed out, “we cannot do much to change the non-modifiable risk factors like genetic, ethnicity and age but a lot can be done to reduce the modifiable risk factors such as physical inactivity, tobacco, alcohol abuse and unhealthy diets”.

“If left unmanaged, diabetes can result in serious complications including kidney failure, stroke, lower limb amputations, and blindness. In addition, for millions of low-income households, the costs of accessing lifelong care for diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases can push families into poverty’, said Dr L. Musango

The WHO Representative highlighted the fact that people with diabetes are at higher risk of severe illness when infected with COVID-19. “In South Africa for example, over 50% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients had diabetes. In Mauritius, unfortunately we had 10 deaths and 9 out of them had NCDs co-morbidities”, added Dr L. Musango.

Dr L. Musango acknowledged the key roles played by nurses in providing lifelong care for people with diabetes. He added that investing in the health workforce is contributing to the development of countries, because it contributes to the achievement of the SDG 3 related to health and wellbeing, and also to other SDGs such as eradicating poverty, ensuring inclusive and equitable education, achieving gender equality through the employment and empowerment of women, and promoting decent work and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

“Nurses have an important role in diagnosing diabetes early to ensure prompt treatment, in providing self-management training and psychological support for people with diabetes to help prevent complications and in tackling the risk factors for type 2 diabetes to prevent the condition and complications”, said Dr L. Musango

The last national NCD survey conducted among Mauritians aged 25 to 74 years old, revealed that 20% of the population are obese and 35% are overweight. Only 23% of the population practices physical activity to stay healthy. The prevalence of smoking is 20% and 50% of the population consume alcohol.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness is mobilizing additional resources – financial and human – to address the high prevalence of diabetes in the country. Indeed, 250,000 people aged 25 to 75 years old are living with diabetes in Mauritius; representing one out of five Mauritians affected with the disease. The Government of Mauritius has invested significantly in foot care services, retinal screening and capacity building of diabetic nurses to prevent complications related to uncontrolled diabetes.