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Greater gov't role sought to prevent diabetes

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By Shan Juan (China Daily, 2011-11-14)

BEIJING - The Beijing Shuiguan (water pass) Great Wall went blue on Sunday evening to mark World Diabetes Day, which falls on Nov 14 each year.

At least 40 landmark architectures in more than 30 cities in the Chinese mainland were scheduled to be illuminated in blue along with their counterparts in more than 160 countries and regions worldwide. The idea is to raise awareness in order to help prevent and control diabetes, according to the Chinese Diabetes Society, which organizes the events in China.

"Chronic diabetes has become a major challenge to public health in China and the government should play a key intervening role," said Ji Long, who heads the group.

Currently, China has about 92.4 million patients, 27 percent of the world's total. About 13 percent of the country's total expenditure on health is spent on diabetes-related care and treatment, official statistics showed.

"The rising epidemic is also a social issue as it is related to changing lifestyles - often featuring a high-fat diet and less exercise - brought about by huge socioeconomic changes," Ji told China Daily.

Decades ago when the number of sufferers was limited, medical treatment was enough to keep the disease in check but now that requires involvement of the whole society, he said.

Guo Xiaohui, secretary general of the society, urged the government to take a multi-department approach to deal with the epidemic, like building cities and communities that could facilitate a healthy lifestyle in people.

It was especially necessary to raise the level of awareness in rural areas, Ji said, as most of China's undiagnosed diabetics lived there. According to him, 61 percent of China's overall diabetes patients remained undiagnosed.

Guo Baojun, a patient in Beijing, said he was diagnosed in a medical check-up organized by his work unit in 1998 but didn't start medication until 2003, when he began to show major symptoms like an itching skin and feeling frequent fits of thirst.

"Initially I thought it was no big deal, as I knew very little about the disease then," he said.

Ji asked those in the high-risk groups, like people over 40 and/or overweight, to go for regular screenings to ensure early detection and timely treatment.

As part of the ongoing campaign, about 20,000 people nationwide would get free screenings and receive free consultations by professionals about diabetes prevention and treatment, he added.



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