Most surveyed diabetes patients unaware of Saudi support groups

Patients said the societies must do more to help people who need support and guidance

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Despite four nonprofit diabetes societies operating in the Kingdom, few diabetes patients who spoke to Okaz/Saudi Gazette were aware of them.

Patients said the societies must do more to help people who need support and guidance. “These societies must be present near places where people gather, such as schools, markets and event halls to reach the biggest number of people.

They said the societies have a shortcoming in communicating with patients whose number is increasing day by day,” said one patient, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mahfooz al-Ghamdi, another diabetes patient, asked what sort of role diabetes societies are currently playing and voiced optimism that they will intensify their efforts and reach out to the majority of diabetes patients.

Al-Ghamdi stressed the need to combat this disease, which occupies the topmost place in the Kingdom. “Even though it is called the silent killer, the so-called diabetes societies have shown an astonishing lack of concern to combat the disease,” he said.

When Hamdah al-Ghamdi’s children were diagnosed with diabetes, she reached out to a society specializing in awareness and providing assistance to diabetes patients.

Al-Ghamdi said her experience was positive and described the society as effectively carrying out its role in creating awareness and providing assistance in check-ups, medicines, follow-ups and education.

When her sons grew up and learned how to manage the disease, she stopped contacting the society and said she no longer hears about it.

“The societies do poorly when it comes to keeping contacts with patients,” she said. Meanwhile, the number of diabetes sufferers in the country has been increasing at an alarming rate.

In its 2013 report, the ministry said 13.4 percent of children aged 13 and 53 percent of 65-year-olds are diabetic.

“The real problem lies in the fact these percentages are taken at face value," said Dr. Fatima al-Saleel, who heads up the Ministry of Health’s program to tackle diabetes.

“According to this report, the actual number of diabetics in the country is 2.5 million but this number doesn’t include those who have it but don’t know they do.

They number around 1.8 million,” Al-Riyadh newspaper quoted her as saying on the occasion of World Diabetes Day.

Dr. Abdulaziz Saeed, ministry undersecretary for public health, blamed fast food restaurants for this epidemic.

He believed people need to be educated about the risks of fast food and the ministry would provide them with information raising their awareness of the dangers of consuming such products.

Companies that provide fast food should provide healthy options to children, Saeed said.

“We do have alarming diabetes rates in the country but I’m sure the ministry will work hard to fight it and protect people against it."

People with the disease need to understand they should change their food habits to reduce complications, he said.

They must try hard to always have breakfast and never miss this important meal of the day, he said, adding exercise is equally important for diabetic and non-diabetic people.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on December 8, 2014.