Kolkata: There is a "huge dearth" of diabetes management experts and educators hailed as "foot-soldiers" needed to bridge the gap between doctors and patients after initial screening of the silent killer, say government officials and healthcare experts.
"There is a huge dearth, absolute lack of diabetes educators in the country. This is a well established concept in the west but is slowly emerging in India," J.J. Mukherjee, senior consultant in diabetes and endocrinology, Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals said on Friday on the sidelines of West Bengal state round-table on Non-Communicable Disease (NCD), organised here by CII.
A diabetes educator is a nurse or a health official who has received training in diabetes management that includes diet control, exercise and monitoring.
"A doctor can guide the patient to walk on a particular road, but patient needs handholding. That is where we need diabetes nurse educators. They are like foot-soldiers. They are basically slightly more than a nurse, excess training they have had in diabetes management. They take the patients through all these basics," Mukherjee said.
Dubbed as a silent killer by experts worldwide, Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2 diabetes) - or simply diabetes - forms one of the four major non-communicable diseases in India, the other three being cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
"If trained people educate patients on disease management, they will listen. If anyone else does it, then they might not feel interested," said Urgen Sherpa, district nodal officer from Sikkim.
P.K. Malhotra, advisor and state programme officer (Non Communicable Diseases) for West Bengal said: "It should be an interactive with the patient`s involvement... The patient should be made aware of his blood sugar levels."
The educators must understand the importance of what they are doing. They should get involved too," Malhotra said.
Odisha`s state nodal officer for NCD, P.K. Patnaik said counsellors in his state are "empowered" to motivate others and bring about changes in lifestyle as a preventive measure.
"They are quite empowered and know a lot about diabetes. They know how to motivate the people, bring about behavioural change, lifestyle change. They can bring about a lot of changes and professional educators are absolutely needed," Patnaik said.
D.C. Jain, deputy director general, Department of Health Services, said: "If pregnant women are educated or counselled, then the offspring will also be born healthy. The process should start from the womb. We should also focus on educating school children so that they can inform their parents about the hazards of diabetes," said Jain.
Around 347 million people worldwide have diabetes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) projects that the didease will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030.
Around 62 million Indians have diabetes.