Health experts have expressed worry over the steady but increasing figures in diabetes cases among children and adolescents in the country.
Such figures were said to send signals to the general population to be wary of an epidemic which was silently taking a toll on the younger generation and if care was not taken to contain it, the nation would suffer greater loses among its working force.
According to Dr. Lorna Renner, a Paediatrician with the Child Health Unit of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, recent research has indicated that, among one to three percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes occurred in children younger than 15 years.
She said children were now being diagnosed as early as two months of age, while the peak ages ranged between five and seven years and at puberty.
It was in this light that the Ministry of Health in collaboration with its supporting Agencies, including the Health Promotion Unit, organised a day's programme to observe the World Diabetes Day on Wednesday in Accra.
The Day initially instituted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the 14th of November each year was to create global awareness on the disease, and owing to the special challenges of caring for diabetes in children, it choose the theme; “Diabetes in Children and Adolescents: Know the warning signs.”
Dr Renner said children were under a serious threat as more children were being diagnosed with type two diabetic conditions which used to affect predominantly adults.
She attributed the current increase in the disease among the younger populace to the adoption of negative and poor dietary habits and acquire attitudes such as excessive intake of alcohol.
She explained that a diabetic condition was the one in which ones blood sugar (glucose) becomes high as a result of problems with the production of insulin by an organ-- pancreas or problems with its action on both.
“It is estimated that every 10 seconds one person dies from diabetes, while two people are estimated to develop the disease every 10 seconds,” he said.
She said reports by World Health Organisation also indicated that about 70,000 children develop type one diabetes condition each year, “a figure which calls for an emergency action to manage the situation.
Dr Renner urged parents, guardians, and teachers to monitor their children and report early, visible symptoms, including frequent urination, increased thirst, frequent fatigue and unexplained weight loss.
She said, although there was no cure, the disease could be managed and complications delayed or prevented.
She stated that diabetes care in children was very costly because of the frequent medication required, however if not well-managed, it could lead to serious complications and sometimes kill children if not well-treated.
Dr Renner mentioned some of the complications of diabetes as damage to the eyes leading to blindness, kidney and damages to the nerves.
She urged the youth to stick to eating healthy diets with more fibre, fruits and vegetables and also exercise constantly to ensure a healthy life.
She called on all stakeholders to be actively involved in the fight against the disease which was gradually attaining epidemic status.
Ms Ellen B. Mensah, National SHEP Co-ordinator emphasised the importance of physical exercise in the school curricula and said it was important for all institutions to make good use of such programmes on their timetable.
She expressed concern about the current situation where extra
classes and prolonged academic work during normal class hours had taken over
the children playing period.
“Children have taken to eating sweets and fried foods, leaving our fruits and vegetables out of their daily diets. We must insist on going back
to appreciating our local green leafy vegetables such as 'kontomire' and others that contains more fibre and are highly nutritious.
She called of community leaders to ensure that school fields were not high-jacked by adults for their soccer activities.