A rapid rise in diabetes cases is putting putting massive pressure on St Helena’s economy – as well as wrecking lives.
The island now has one of the worst rates of type 2 diabetes in the world, per head of population.
St Helena Government says the steep rise is partly down to increased testing, as part of a concerted fight against the disease.
On 1 March 2013 there were 645 islanders being treated for the condition, which doubles the risk of early death. That is roughly one in seven people on the island.
A statement from The Castle is blunt about the human costs of the disease – including as a cause of heart attacks.
“Of the 18 people who died from myocardial infarcts last year, 13 had diabetes. More than half of other deaths had diabetes as a contributing factor.”
And it makes it clear the impact is felt far beyond the patients and their families.
“This high incidence places a tremendous burden on the health system in terms of man hours, the cost of medication, the cost of laboratory tests and the treatment of complications from diabetes,” says the statement.
“Absenteeism or early retirement and the cost of caring for people who are debilitated due to complications are a burden on the St Helena economy.”
It adds: “The prevalence of diabetes on St Helena is three times that of the UK and five times the global rate.
“Ten per cent of the current diabetics have been diagnosed in the last year.
“The high number of new cases is due to increased testing by the medical staff, increased awareness, and the ageing population.”
Although people of African and Asian descent are more prone to the disease, the government is clear about where the responsibility lies.
“Diabetes is preventable,” it says. “An active lifestyle and a healthy diet is all that is needed.”