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Opening of the Diabetic Workshop For Caregivers and Patients with Diabetes

February 9, 2019       Holiday Inn, Suva

The Honorable Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete;
Diabetes Fiji Board Members, Mr. Tauz Khan, Dr. Isimeli Tukana and Dr. Rajesh Sharma;
Senior Officials of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services;

Distinguished guests; and
Ladies and gentlemen

Ni sa bula vinaka, Namaste and a very good morning to you all.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is such a great pleasure and I deem it an equally great honour to be invited as your Chief Guest for the first of its kind “Diabetic Workshop for Care Givers and Patients with Diabetes Programme” today.

A few days ago, I consented to renew my appointment and commitment to being Fiji’s Lead Advocate and Champion in the National campaign to eliminate Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and promote Government’s Wellness Programme.

Honourable Minister, Dr. Waqainabete thank you most sincerely for your kind invitation to this effect which I have gladly accepted. In this regard, I look forward to continue promoting the Ministry’s endeavours and working very closely with Dr. Isimeli Tukana and his dedicated and hardworking team.I also welcome and look forward to the support and assistance of other stakeholders in this noble National undertaking.

For the next three years, I look forward to continue “walking the talk” and be very actively involved and personally participate whenever and wherever it is practicably possible to help Fiji as a Nation to improve our overall state of health and wellbeing.

After studying the programme of this workshop, I am quite happy and greatly encouraged that its primary aim is to assist diabetic patients and care givers in providing a platform within which participants can share experiences, build lasting relationships and most importantly, provide support for each other.

Ladies and gentlemen, according to the International Diabetes Federation, worldwide, in every six seconds a person from within our global community would, sadly die from Diabetes. Such statistics from what I strongly believe is a scourge which is threatening the global community is both, most alarming indeed and so sad. This simply means that diabetes is now one of the many diseases that urgently require a global collective and concerted effort to address and combat because of its adverse and detrimental effects and impact on the future of humanity.

Ladies and gentlemen as you know, diabetes does not discriminate as to who it affects, therefore living with diabetes is quite burdensome for patients, families, caregivers and other stakeholders.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is heartening to note that this workshop also serves as an initiative to educate patients and peers to better understand this illness, how to cope and control the ailment and be motivated to know and accept that there is always hope that it is preventable and treatable.

It is with great concern that the International Diabetes Federation in 2017 revealed that 15% of the adult population in our beloved Fiji, are suffering from Diabetes.

The Ministry of Health statistics currently reveal that almost one in every three Fijians are being diagnosed with diabetes which is equivalent to 30% of the population; and that about three lower limb amputations are conducted every day as a result of uncontrolled infection due to poorly controlled diabetes.  This alarming rate raises serious concerns with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and to Government which has spent about $406 million annually on the treatment of Non-Communicable Diseases and related ailments in recent years.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are much needed Government funds that would be better utilized for the improvement of other sectors in our communities.

Sadly and most regrettably, more Fijians are dying at a young age today due to diabetes.

Diabetes has now become a present, real and clear threat and danger to the Wellbeing of our
beloved nation today and if not controlled, would also threaten the livelihood of future generations
of Fijians.

Statistics further reveal that eye diseases caused by diabetes are also a great threat and impediment to the movement and social interaction and cohesion of our adult population. Diabetes as our health professionals know can also affect other parts of the body too and can lead to hypertension, stroke and other complications. It is wreaking havoc in our nation and we need to act now.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been advised that the three leading causes of mortality and disability in Fiji today are Ischemic Heart Diseases, Diabetes and Stroke.  These are Non-Communicable diseases that can be prevented through modifying our lifestyle and choosing a healthy lifestyle, such as; strict adherence to a healthy diet, exercising daily for a minimum of 30 minutes, stop smoking and cutting down on alcohol and yaqona consumption, and having enough sleep which are considered key requirements to a healthy and longer life.

The Education of our young people about Diabetes together with its related Preventative Measures and Management should begin at home.

Ladies and gentlemen, as Parents and Responsible Citizens of our beloved nation, let us make it our business to assist the appropriate authorities (in this case the Ministry of Health and Medical Services) in combating this scourge for the benefit of present and future generations of Fijians.

In this regard, I would therefore like to acknowledge and thank the Diabetes Fiji team for having a pragmatic and shared vision in combating and the treatment of NCDs.  We can prevent the prevalence of diabetes and improve our people’s quality of life by making the right choices and leading a healthy lifestyle now.

Many individuals feel isolated because they are suffering from the disease, and attending workshops and seminars such as this, where they can meet and interact with other individuals with diabetes, sharing their experiences and their stories, will undoubtedly encourage and enable them to learn, properly manage their treatments with more confidence and hope. These workshops are also very good forums for all participants to learn from one another and establish new acquaintances with officials and fellow patients.

Those who are suffering from the disease within communities can be empowered to accept and learn how to cope with this ailment through the creation of Diabetes Community Peer Groups.

World-wide experiences with the establishment of Diabetes Community Peer Groups have shown and proven that this medium can be an effective and successful tool in managing diabetes and its complications. It develops a great sense of camaraderie amongst the sufferers, and enhances the sharing of experience and knowledge amongst the officials and patients alike.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that with this wealth of information, our best strategy and course of action as a nation to prevent diabetes and address the prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases is to be more proactive instead of being dismissive, ignorant and sadly prefer to be reactive. The old English adage, of: “Prevention is better than Cure” rings true.

Only then will we be able to achieve every community and our beloved nation’s aspiration to be a peaceful, prosperous and healthier nation.

As the Greek physician Hippocrates said “The greatest medicine of all is teaching people how not to need it”, great words of wisdom indeed.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank the Diabetes Foundation once again and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services for organising this symposium which I strongly believe to be both timely and apt.

I now look forward to the implementation of the outcomes of your deliberations and on that note, it gives me great pleasure to declare the workshop open.

May Almighty God Bless our beloved Nation, Fiji and May God Bless us All.

Thank you.