A disproportionate number of people who die from Covid-19 are diabetic.
This was reiterated by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh during the second Carlton Phillip Diabetes Webinar titled Access to Diabetes Care: Self-Care is Essential hosted by the Diabetes Association of Trinidad and Tobago (DATT) on World Diabetes Day on Sunday.
People with diabetes are at increased risk of contracting several other diseases and viral infections, including Covid-19, and now there is a disproportionate group of Covid-19 fatalities who are diabetic, the minister said.
He said the pandemic has further reinforced the importance of the management and control of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.
Describing the prevalence of diabetes in Trinidad and Tobago as stunning, Deyalsingh said it rose from four per cent in the 1980s to 40 to 50 per cent at present, with 88 to 90 per cent of people affected having Type 2 diabetes.
“This translates roughly to 145,000 adults with known cases of diabetes,” he said.
He said the escalation of diabetes is largely attributed to the prevalence of obesity and concurrent physical inactivity in children and adults.
Deyalsingh said the DATT and the Ministry of Health have initiated a number of projects to educate children on healthy living.
“We must get our children moving,” he stressed.
He said a 2016 study showed the annual economic burden of diabetes, including health care services and productivity losses, is estimated at $3.5 billion.
Also speaking during the webinar, Dr Erica Wheeler, T&T’s representative for the Pan American Health Organisation and the World Health Organisation, said T&T is among the countries with the highest prevalence of diabetes with an estimated 14.5 per cent of the population suffering from the disease.
She said 2015 figures show T&T also has the highest rate of diabetes mortality at 115.5 per 100,000 population, compared to the regional rate of 33.1 per 100,000 population.
She said diabetes is linked to cardiovascular disease and is among the top five causes of death in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Wheeler said diabetics face many health challenges and the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation.
“Globally, the pandemic has already taken the lives of over five million people and we know that persons with NCDs have a higher risk of severe Covid-19 disease and death when infected,” she said.