PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia has the highest rate of diabetes in Asia but its effects are felt far beyond the 3.6 million Malaysians who have been diagnosed with the silent killer.
Diabetes, projected to affect some seven million Malaysians by 2025, also puts physical and psychological strain on their caregivers, especially when it involves patients requiring long-term care.
This is why the Health Ministry and Danish multi-national healthcare company Novo Nordisk have collaborated on the Sama-Sama pilot project to empower families of diabetics.
Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min said according to an International Diabetes Foundation survey on 7,000 diabetics across seven countries, half of them felt that their diagnosis had put a strain on their family.
“About 43% said they felt anxious when they were diagnosed, and 46% did not want to be a burden on their families.
“Living with diabetes is challenging, which is why family members must be able to function as a pillar of support for patients and serve as sources of emotional strength, ” said Dr Chen at the World Diabetes Day 2019 celebration and Sama-Sama project launch here yesterday.
The Sama-Sama project will equip caregivers and household members with knowledge on managing the disease and improving the quality of life for both the patient and the rest of the household, said Dr Chen.
The project, targeting the participation of 100 diabetics living in Putrajaya and their families, will also help raise awareness on prevention among other family members, he said.
Novo Nordisk international operations executive vice president Maziar Mike Doustdar said the company, which produced half of the world’s insulin, wanted to be part of the solution to Malaysia’s diabetes problem.
“With 3.6 million diabetics, it puts Malaysia in one of the worst places globally in terms of the disease. We would like to be part of the solution because no single entity can tackle diseases like diabetes and obesity on its own.
“Private-public partnership is needed, and the Sama-Sama project is an example of such a partnership, ” said Doustdar.
The year-long project will see participants being recruited through the four public health clinics within Putrajaya.
Doustdar said Putrajaya was chosen as it had one of the highest prevalences of diabetes in Malaysia, and also for its top-notch facilities.
Denmark Ambassador to Malaysia Jesper Vahr, who was also present, said collaborations such as the Sama-Sama project enabled governments and the private sector to tackle the burden of diabetes together.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) deputy director at the ministry’s disease control division Dr Feisul Idzwan Mustapha said despite availability and accessibility of health screening, the proportion of Malaysians undiagnosed with diabetes was alarming.
“For every person who is diagnosed, another one goes undiagnosed. (Lack of) knowledge and awareness is a part of it but many are also afraid.
“Diabetes will remain asymptomatic or show no symptoms for many years. But it just takes a simple finger-prick test to find out, ” said Dr Feisul.
He also revealed that only 20% of Malaysians had taken up the free medical check-up provided for Socso contributors over 40 years old.
A study in 2011 showed the direct cost of diabetes to be approximately RM2bil, said Dr Feisul.
“However, we think that this is an underestimate as it did not include indirect costs such as reduced or lost productivity due to work absenteeism, ” he said.
Dr Feisul urged Malaysians to go for frequent health checks.