The federal government has declared an epidemiological emergency for diabetes, which caused nearly 100,000 deaths in Mexico last year.
The epidemiological alert is the first ever issued for a non-communicable disease and comes as a result of the increased prevalence of diabetes in the Mexican population.
According to federal figures, 9.2% of Mexicans suffer from diabetes while 71.2% are obese or overweight, two principal causes of the disease.
Diabetes and related conditions caused 98,000 deaths in 2015, the Health Secretary said in an interview with Milenio TV.
José Narro said the government issued the alert to raise awareness and highlight the problem, and bring about better coordination of government actions to combat the disease.
“. . . We’re also creating a great communication and health education campaign . . . through which we will identify patients in the early stages of the disease and offer them treatment,” he said.
The largest health service in Mexico, the social security system IMSS, agreed that the incidence of diabetes should be considered an emergency.
IMSS chief Mikel Arriola Peñalosa stated that red flags could be raised throughout the country with regard to diabetes, a disease that he described as having no respect for social status or gender.
Of the 98,000 deaths registered nationally last year, over 21,000 were IMSS patients. The institute performed 4,500 amputations and declared 2,000 people permanently incapacitated for complications related to the disease.
The institute spent 42.8 billion pesos treating cases of diabetes, but the figure is even higher when other conditions caused by it are taken into consideration, such as renal insufficiency, which required an additional 8.1 billion pesos.
If the current trend continues, the institute will have to allocate 350 billion pesos by the year 2050.
One great challenge for the health system is the creation of efficient prevention campaigns. A large number of patients are diagnosed after their condition has deteriorated enough to land them in the emergency room.
Arriola said Mexico went from having a low rate of diabetes in the 1970s to the current epidemiological emergency thanks to three harmful factors: the introduction of refined sugars, saturated fat and sodium in the diets of a large part of the population.
Since then, obesity and overweight have been on the rise and in 90% of diabetes cases, those two conditions can be said to have caused it.
Mexicans are also genetically predisposed to suffer diabetes, and bad eating habits only worsen the situation, Arriola said.