One of the challenges of diabetes – and there are many – is that when a person has the disease, it is not obvious to them.
It is not uncommon for a diabetic person to continue without a diagnosis for years, especially if they do not visit a doctor or health professional regularly. In fact, many people are already experiencing serious complications from diabetes when they are diagnosed. Additionally, some people may not experience common signs of diabetes or they may not recognize their ailments as symptoms of diabetes.
This is why regular screening and testing are essential. Early diagnosis can dramatically change the course of the disease. If a diagnosis comes at an earlier stage in the disease, health professionals can try and delay the progression of the disease and the onset of serious complications.
India made waves earlier this week with its 26 mini–interventions for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). We are so pleased the country has a comprehensive plan to combat NCDs, which includes screening for diabetes.
Last week, India’s Union health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, addressed the United Nations summit on NCDs in New York and described screening measures that India is already using to combat these deadly diseases.
According to news reports, he said that screening for diabetes and hypertension is already being carried out on all adult males above 30 years of age as well as pregnant women of all ages in many parts of the country – 100 identified districts in 21 states and urban slums of 33 cities with populations greater than 1 million.
He also described India’s National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) and Stroke (NPCDCS). The program includes the establishment of clinics at 100 district hospitals and 700 Community Health Centres (CHCs). These clinics would aid in the diagnosis and management of NCDs, as well as promote healthy living.
Through this pilot project, over 150 million people will be screened by March of 2012. The program will be run across the country by April 2012.
Although programs like these are costly in the short term, they allow a country to assess the scale of the problem and deploy the right programs to combat it. And screening is the first step to controlling diabetes both at the individual level and the population level. Screening reduces healthcare related costs and, most importantly, programs like these improve patient outcomes and will save millions of lives.