Zammit Dimech raises concerns of Maltese diabetics with European Commissioner
Diabetes is an issue of high priority that requires further research, MEP Francis Zammit Dimech said.
New knowledge needed to battle the disease can only be obtained with more funding. We need to also ensure that patients receive the necessary services and offer all support not only to them but also to their families, the MEP added during a meeting of the EU Diabetes Working Group at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health, said that it is time to understand that a holistic approach is needed regarding health, as well as action at all levels – local, regional, national and European. He remarked that more attention needs to be given to nutrition and prevention in general. He said that addressing commercial determinants of health can help in the fight to combat diabetes. The Commissioner also spoke about the need of long term strategies to tackle diabetes. Referring to the Common Agricultural Policy he emphasised the need to produce healthy products.
Zammit Dimech, who co-chairs the EU Diabetes Working Group, has over the past year made five appeals to the government on diabetes. These are: Provide free Continuous Glucose Monitors; Provide free 4mm pen needles for children; Provide free needles to diabetics including a lancet device; Make a diabetic nurse available to patients in Gozo; and set up a Parliamentary Committee on Diabetes
Zammit Dimech said that while diabetes causes suffering as it leads to blindness amputation and kidney failure, it is not being given sufficient attention by health authorities. Supporting patients and their families is crucial especially since diabetes contributes to reduced quality of life and loss of working capacity. Zammit Dimech also recalled how the updated audio-visual media services directive introduces strict rules on advertising and product placement in children’s programmes including reducing exposure to publicity for unhealthy food and beverages. He said that this was crucial to prevent diabetes as of a young age.
Present for the meeting was also Chris Delicata, from the Maltese Diabetes Association and Chairman for the European Coalition for Diabetes, who said, “Over the years, there were several statements, resolutions and declarations. The message has always been consistent focusing on a strong call to prioritise Diabetes in the EU health agenda. It is now time to act and put forward concrete action which will ensure a better lifestyle and wellbeing for persons living with diabetes.”
Jack Delicata shared the patient experience. “It is extremely encouraging to hear all that is happening to make people’s life with diabetes easier and less demanding - including the introduction of continuous glucose monitoring devices. At times, cost is always an issue for many, so full support from the national governments to provide such devices as part of free medicinal support, is vital. As a person with diabetes, I believe that if governments invest in such innovate devices and keep themselves abreast with all the new and more effective insulins and other oral medications, it will undoubtedly improve one’s life and would result in fewer cases of complications and hospitalisation costs.”
According to the International Diabetes Federation, nearly 1 in 10 people in Europe have diabetes amounting to around 60 million people. It is estimated that there are 22 million undiagnosed cases in Europe. By 2045, the number of people with diabetes is expected to increase to 81 million.
Next month, MEP Francis Zammit Dimech will be organising a one week event and a policy debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to mark World Diabetes Day.