Message from the Honourable Minister of Health:
Every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) selects a priority area of global public health concern as the theme for World Health Day, which falls on 7 April, the date of founding of the WHO. The theme for World Health Day 2016 is Beat Diabetes. Diabetes is a non-communicable disease (NCD) directly impacting millions of people globally and is a disease of particular importance here in Brunei Darussalam.
Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood sugar mostly due to poor response to insulin by the body cells. Early symptoms of diabetes can be subtle or seemingly harmless. Increasing thirst, excessive urination and fatigue are some of the more common symptoms of diabetes. More importantly, if left untreated, diabetes may lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nervous system. All these complications can affect the quality of life for individuals with diabetes and are potentially life-threatening.
The prevalence of diabetes has been steadily increasing in the past few decades and the burden and impact of the disease is significant. Globally, 9% of adults have diabetes. It causes an estimated 1.5 million deaths per year worldwide. Brunei Darussalam too is not spared from the worldwide epidemic of diabetes. The National Health and Nutritional Status Survey 2011 (NHANNS) showed that diabetes prevalence among the population is high at 12.4% (approximately 37,000 people). Worryingly, the survey also found type 2 diabetes in younger people, some as young as just 20 years old. Locally, diabetes is the main cause of kidney failure. Over the past 5 years, diabetes is the third leading cause of death in the country.
Diabetes is more than just a health issue. It can have devastating social and economic consequences, for people living with diabetes and their families. Diabetes and its complications has a high cost to our health system and the national economy through direct and indirect medical costs, and the loss in employment, productivity and income.
Despite the seriousness of the threat posed by diabetes to Brunei Darussalam, most forms of diabetes are entirely preventable. We can reduce the rising trend through targeted prevention and appropriate care. Each individual must take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. It cannot be emphasized often enough that prevention is better than cure. Even for those individuals who have already been diagnosed with diabetes, measures can be taken to minimize the impact and complications of the disease. The Ministry of Health is therefore reaching out directly and urging all individuals living in Brunei Darussalam to take preventive measures such as:
Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight;
Eat a healthy diet of at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, and reduce the intake of sugar, salt and saturated fats;
Be physically active – do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least 5 days a week;
Avoid tobacco use; and
Have regular medical check-ups to detect diabetes early.
For our part, the Ministry of Health will continue to engage with patients and the public to prevent and control diabetes in Brunei Darussalam. This is an issue that is particularly well-aligned with our strategic priorities which is to enhance the quality of service delivery, prevent and control non-communicable diseases, and work with partners to ensure that “Health is Everyone’s Business.” Health promotion and health education activities are conducted by the Ministry to raise awareness of the disease. Those individuals who are worried about the risk of developing diabetes or are aged 40 years and above are encouraged to make full use of the Ministry’s 3PK Programme (Program Perkesankan Pemeriksaan Kesihatan). This programme offers health screening services to the public for risk profiling and early detection of non-communicable diseases including diabetes. You can also be screened in any Health Centre in Brunei Darussalam. If an individual is diagnosed with diabetes, their care will likely be managed in the community by a primary care doctor. For those individuals who require more specialized treatment, the primary care doctor collaborates with secondary and tertiary care services based in hospitals and specialist clinics as part of a multidisciplinary team in managing the disease. Secondary prevention of the potential complications of diabetes is vital. People living with diabetes are encouraged to engage fully with health care services through attendance at their clinic appointments, being compliant with the medication prescribed, attend for screening of their eyes and their feet, and adhering to the health advice provided by their doctor in order to prevent future complications of diabetes.
Successful diabetes prevention and control in Brunei Darussalam cannot be achieved solely by the Ministry of Health. We need the engagement and participation of all relevant stakeholders to join us in our efforts to increase awareness of diabetes, its complication and prevention, and to enable and empower individuals to make healthy choices. International best practice indicates that a strong whole of nation approach that encompasses the Health in All Policies agenda is critical in tackling this disease nationwide. Additionally, the private sector can play an important role through the provision of healthy and affordable food options, voluntary reductions of salt, sugar and fat in the food being sold, and supporting physical activity initiatives in the community. All of us have a significant role in our national effort towards diabetes prevention and control in order to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goal of reducing premature deaths caused by non-communicable diseases including diabetes by a third by 2030.
It is particularly pertinent that the theme chosen for this year’s World Health Day is Beat Diabetes. Much has changed since the first World Health Day nearly 70 years ago, including the changing patterns of disease such as the emergence of non-communicable diseases like diabetes as a serious global health threat. There are no simple solutions to the problem of diabetes. What is clear is that each individual is responsible for their own health and a healthy population is critical to the development of Brunei Darussalam. Health is everyone’s business - one way or the other, we all have our own roles and responsibilities, and working together, we can and we will beat diabetes in Brunei Darussalam.