World Diabetes Day, the primary global awareness campaign for diabetes, is significant to the success of patient care initiatives because of its message about empowerment through education, according to Ms Somaya Al Haidose, director of Hamad Medical Corporation's (HMC) Patient and Family Education Unit, which provides counseling on at least 14 specialty care practices.
Celebrated on November 14 each year, World Diabetes Day is part of a long-term campaign to address the growing need for diabetes education and prevention programs. The campaign aims to draw attention to the paramount issues facing the global diabetes community.
"For governments, the message of World Diabetes Day is a call to implement effective strategies and policies for the prevention and management of diabetes, in order to safeguard the health of their citizens with and at risk of diabetes. For healthcare professionals, it is a call to improve their knowledge so that evidence-based recommendations are put into practice," said Al Haidose.
"For the general public, it is a call to understand the serious impact of diabetes and to know, where possible, how to avoid or delay diabetes and its complications. Better understanding of diabetes by the community at large is of direct benefit to people with this condition," she added.
Al Haidose stressed the importance of a reliable patient education component in any healthcare system, highlighting the role of trained educators in helping diabetes sufferers to better understand their condition, and facilitating a more accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. "When you add reliable patient education into the patient-provider relationship, it forms a bond of trust that enables patients to better understand and communicate more effectively about their condition and symptoms."
As many as 2,618 patients have been seen by HMC's diabetes educators at Hamad General Hospital from January to September this year. The patients were counseled on the facts about diabetes, including signs of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia and their management, diabetic ketoacidosis, chronic complications, how to manage diabetes during special situations such as fasting, Hajj or traveling, achieving and maintaining one's optimal body weight, good nutrition and physical exercise.
Diabetes or diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar levels that result from defects in insulin secretion, or action, or both. Symptoms include frequent urination, excessive thirst, increased hunger, weight loss, tiredness, blurred vision, frequent infections and slow-healing wounds. Risk factors for diabetes include obesity, lack of exercise, previously identified glucose intolerance, unhealthy diet, increased age, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, a family history of diabetes and a history of gestational diabetes.
"The number of people with diabetes in Qatar is increasing due to factors such as population growth, aging, sedentary lifestyles, and the increasing prevalence of obesity brought about by lack of physical activity and poor dietary habits," said Al Haidose. "More and more patients are having heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease because they were diagnosed with the underlying condition at a late stage."
Al Haidose explained how timely and relevant patient and family education will help people gain better control of their diabetes. "We are encouraging people to think more about whether they are at high risk of diabetes today through awareness campaigns in communities and schools. We are increasing focus on tools that provide support for behavioral changes and improved quality of life as the core of better health outcomes."
Al Haidose believes that when equipped with the proper knowledge, people will be able to recognize the symptoms and risk factors, to understand why a doctor prescribes a certain treatment plan, and to make effective lifestyle choices to prevent or better manage their diabetes.
"The most important thing is to understand how a change in diet and lifestyle can help manage the disease and prevent the possibility of complications. Heart disease, stroke, blindness and kidney failure are some of the complications that can be avoided through an effective management care plan," she said. "Our goal is to improve the quality of our patients' care and life by encouraging changes in knowledge, attitude and skills through education."