An International Health Problem

What would you say to persons with diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2, who don’t exercise? What would you say if they continued to include and frequently to over-indulge in foods containing sugar? What would you say if they also smoked? Would you simply throw up your hands and walk away? Or would you continue to try to persuade them to change their habits?


This is the position of healthcare professionals in Saudi Arabia.


The incidence of diabetes in Saudi Arabia has been estimated to be between 25 and 27% (age range unknown). In the United States, it’s estimated that 10 % of adults over 20 have either diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes. LINK


In Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, 90 people a month have a foot amputated due to uncontrolled diabetes.  An increasing number of these people are in their 30’s. The lifespan after this surgery (in Saudi Arabia) is estimated to be five years.




What I find discouraging about these statistics is that Saudi Arabia is not a poor country. It is not a country with a high illiteracy rate. The literacy rate in Saudi Arabia is 82.9% In the United States it is 99%. LINK


What I find discouraging is that diabetes is a global problem and it may be culturally bound. Why else would an oil-rich country with a high literacy rate have such a high rate of complications from a chronic disease that is manageable?


Perhaps the prevalence of diabetes is a result of genetics. However, even in the face of genetics, the onset of diabetes can be delayed or prevented. Certainly complications such as foot amputation can be delayed significantly.


What causes educated, literate people to ignore their health? I can think of no reason but culture. And I can think of no solution. But it is a global health problem of major proportion.


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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