Let's learn about diabetes care and access

Healthcare professionals at the recent WDD 2021 Media Forum shed light on the landscape of diabetes care in Malaysia.

Healthcare professionals at the recent WDD 2021 Media Forum shed light on the landscape of diabetes care in Malaysia.

THE key for better access to overall diabetes care is addressing the current gap in the lack of optimal management of Malaysians living with diabetes, revealed healthcare professionals at a recent virtual forum.

Themed ‘Access to Diabetes Care in a Century of Insulin Discovery’, the World Diabetes Day (WDD) 2021 Media Forum shed light on the landscape of diabetes care in Malaysia, which featured a panel of healthcare professionals.

These experts include Ministry of Health (MOH) non-communicable diseases (NCD) deputy director Dr Feisul Idzwan Mustapha, MOH endocrinology subspecialty service head, Hospital Putrajaya endocrine unit head and consultant physician and endocrinologist Datuk Dr Zanariah Hussein, as well as consultant psychologist Dr Hariyati Shahrima Abdul Majid.

In line with this year’s World Diabetes Day theme of ‘Access to Diabetes Care – If Not Now, When?”, the forum was organised by leading global healthcare company Novo Nordisk in collaboration with the MOH’s NCD section.

The diabetes care landscape

Diabetes is a pressing concern for many Malaysians, especially with data from the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey reporting that some 3.9 million adults aged above 18, or about one in every five adult Malaysians, live with diabetes.

For these patients, access to diabetic care – including access to insulin; oral medicines; self-monitoring; education and psychological support; as well as a healthy living environment – is essential.

However, beyond the wide range of available treatment options and the universal health coverage for Malaysians, the issue starts when patients with diabetes leave the healthcare setting. That’s because at its core, the patient is the most important member of their own healthcare team, with their own beliefs and attitudes shaping the outcome of their treatment and disease.

And with diabetes being a lifelong disease that requires significant lifestyle changes, patients often find it challenging to maintain their new diet and physical activity regimen. Other challenges in homecare and self-management include poor adherence to medication prescriptions and skipping follow-up appointments with their doctor.

“Managing diabetes requires far more than just medicines. It requires constant management and attention and affects the daily lives of those with the condition and their families and caregivers,” said Novo Nordisk Pharma Malaysia vice president and general manager Richard Abela.

Managing diabetes at home

Another important aspect in managing diabetes at home that is often overlooked in the care of a patient with diabetes is their caregiver.

The frequency of diabetes increases with age in Malaysia with the most number of cases occurring among 65- to 69-year-olds, meaning that many living with this disease often have a family member or domestic helper to help look after them.

As these caregivers play a vital role in diabetes management, it is important to ensure that they are empowered with knowledge necessary to help the patient take their medications correctly and assist them in adopting the required lifestyle changes.

Moreover, another area that Dr Hariyati pointed out is mental health, as the long-term nature of diabetes not only affects the patient, but also their caregivers.

“Managing diabetes at home may bring upon psychological impact to both the person with diabetes and their caregivers. Thus, a stronger focus on psychosocial wellbeing is important and we hope that more mental healthcare professionals can be trained to better support chronic care management in the future.”

Taking a holistic approach

The Government has developed strategies to intensify efforts to combat NCDs, said Dr Noor Hisham.The Government has developed strategies to intensify efforts to combat NCDs, said Dr Noor Hisham.

In light of the diabetes challenge in Malaysia, MOH director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah reiterated the importance of a holistic approach in both prevention and disease management to combat the disease.

“The Government is well aware of this issue. In the 12th Malaysia Plan, we have developed strategies to intensify efforts to combat NCDs – such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer – by increasing awareness programmes and screening efforts as well as macro-level initiatives and policies,” he said.

Speaking on the future of diabetes management, Dr Zanariah said, “Diabetes treatment and management will see a different set of challenges, especially in a post-pandemic world. From adopting an integrated approach in care, to increasing utilisation of digital technologies in our engagement with patients, we look forward to seeing more developments that will enable us to provide better care to people with diabetes.”

“When it comes to raising awareness on diabetes, a multi-stakeholder collaboration is important towards creating a health-promoting living environment in Malaysia to reduce the risk of NCDs among Malaysians, particularly among at-risk populations. To this end, we are also working to leverage digital health in catalysing behavioural modification to reduce the exposure of at-risk populations to NCD risk factors. We will continue to streamline our efforts in developing programmes to educate the public about diabetes prevention, care and management,” added Dr Feisul.

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