UNDER the slogan: “Stay Super, Beat Diabetes”, Cuba is preparing to celebrate World Health Day on April 7, with activities to spread awareness and prevent chronic non-communicable diseases, specifically diabetes mellitus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) support the annual event, which this year will see the participation of health institutions across the world, Cristian Roberto Morales, representative of these two international organizations, told reporters in Havana.
“Diabetes puts significant pressure on health care systems across the world, as it requires important human, material and technological resources, resulting in very high costs,” the official explained, adding that 62 million people suffer from the disease and this figure is expected to rise by 40% by the year 2040.
He called for universal access to effective, timely and quality health care services for all those in need, coupled with measures to train professionals in the sector, and provide guidance and training on care models based on patient self-management of the disease.
Cristian Roberto Morales recognized Cuba as an example for other countries, especially those of the region, in providing a health care model focused on the patient, which involves responsible and conscious preventative measures to avoid an increase in those suffering from diabetes.
Dr. Ileidys Iglesia, director of the National Institute of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, noted that 636,231 people have been diagnosed with diabetes on the island and an estimated 30% of the population is unaware they may suffer from the disease.
She stressed the importance of changing nutritional habits and encouraging daily physical exercise to eliminate risk factors for the disease, while noting that the country has a network of medical institutions and hospitals offering one hundred percent coverage for the population.
The benefits of the Cuban public health system stem from the primary care offered at 11,506 family doctor clinics, as well as the 452 polyclinics and 152 hospitals that exist on the island. Some of these facilities have seen Centers for Diabetes Care installed, today numbering a total of 19.
Heberprot-P, a unique drug produced by Cuba, helps treat diabetic foot ulcers and avoid amputations. Photo: Misleydis González
“Cuban patients do not pay for their medical care, but the costs to the health system are extremely high,” the doctor noted, adding, “When the disease occurs, the focus is to prevent complications, implement the strictest glycemic control to delay or prevent the appearance of associated disorders. Diabetes is a condition which must be addressed, accepted and followed throughout one’s life.”
Dr. Rosaida Ochoa Soto, director of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Unit, agrees, and referred to the talks, visits, information pamphlets, advice and other activities to take place across the country to mark World Health Day.
The official added, “We have planned television and radio spots, produced educational materials aimed at consolidating a culture of healthy eating habits in the population, and the national event will take place in the Havana municipality of Cerro, given a pilot initiative developed by local residents.”
This initiative saw the participation of various local doctors’ clinics, with specialists training the population in the prevention of non-communicable diseases, with an emphasis on diabetes, aided by endocrinologists, nutritionists, cardiologists and others, in order to change behaviors for a better quality of life.
World Health Day has been celebrated since 1950 and is focused on a specific topic each year. In 2015, the date was dedicated to the food safety.