Monday night’s Milenio Forum in Mexico City was dedicated to World Diabetes Day, bringing together healthcare experts who discussed the disease’s treatment trends.
The strategies shared during the event included an educational approach and suggested technological advances to facilitate the patients’ life and improve healthcare services.
In Mexico, diabetes is one of the most significant challenges for healthcare budgets. There is a 9.2 percent incidence of diabetes in the Mexican population and about 20,000 people die every year due to this chronic disease, according to IMSS. There are nine million diagnosed patients in Mexico and IMSS spends US$2 billion annually on treatment, which only reaches 25 percent of the diabetic population.
During the panel on diet, exercise and technology, María Anzaldo, Clinical Coordinator of Education and Research at IMSS Tijuana, described diabetes as a “national safety issue”.
Equally, Armando Arredondo, researcher at the National Institute of Public Health, said the economic loss due to diabetes goes beyond simply treatment costs. According to the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), every year 400 million working hours are lost in Mexico due to this chronic condition.
Carlos Aguilar, researcher and specialist in Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, explained that the incidence in the country is caused by genetic variants inherent to the mestizo population, the country’s demographics and the local diet. However, Aguilar believes this presents an opportunity. “The epidemic is an opportunity for Mexico to increase research on the causes of this disease and find strategies to provide better services,” he said.
In fact, Ricardo Mújica, Executive Director of the Carlos Slim Foundation, introduced the new Casalud program, an initiative that evaluates healthcare service quality in each state through ratings given by the patients. The organization is also participating with Lilly, the pharmaceutical company focused on diabetes, in a non-communicable diseases (NCD) partnership.
“Partnerships between government, healthcare institutions, industries and patients are crucial in this issue,” said Almudena Suárez, Director of Executive Affairs for Lilly Mexico.
According to Suarez, one of the main issues with diabetes is that patients do not stick to the treatment. “The industry is working harder to improve patient lifestyles with technology that facilitates insulin injections and in this way, promotes a greater adherence to the treatment,” she said.
Another main objective is early detection and prevention. The Carlos Slim Foundation developed the MIDO device, designed to automatically detect chronic diseases like diabetes. It has been installed in 150 health centers and in several Metro stations. “It is important to target diabetes early and identify patients who are close to developing it. Treating a diabetic is 10 times more expensive than treating a pre-diabetic,” said Mújica.
Anzaldo from IMSS Tijuana shared her experience coordinating Dulce Wireless Tijuana, a program designed to provide diabetes education. Through the initiative, patients receive workshops focused on the use of technology to manage their condition.
Ricardo Corral, Director of Science and Data at Suggestic presented an application that uses coded information about each patient and recommends personalized options of what, when, and where to eat based on the user’s insulin levels.
The panelists agreed that society should be more diabetes-inclusive, especially among populations more genetically predisposed to developing the condition. As remarked by Vanessa Ubaldo, Diabetes Educator at Hospital Angeles in Interlomas, “To avoid diabetes we must live as it we have it.”