The Role of the Physical Therapist in Diabetes Care

by HCC

The Role of the Physical Therapist in Diabetes Care by Offniel Lamont.

Diabetes Awareness Month is celebrated internationally throughout November, and this year, topic is Access to Diabetes Care. Diabetes is classified as a non-communicable disease (NC D) a set of conditions that are not primarily caused by an acute infection, have long-term health implications, and frequently need long-term treatment and care.

Over the last 30 years, Jamaica has seen a significant increase in the number of people with this condition, and the most recent Jamaica Health & Lifestyle Survey, conducted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness between 2016 and 2017, revealed that NCDs accounted for approximately 62 per cent of deaths among men and 74 per cent of deaths among women in 2016. Diabetes had an overall prevalence of 11.9 per cent, with women more likely to be diagnosed than males. Furthermore, the survey found that 24 per cent of those aged 15 and up are either diabetic or pre-diabetic.

A practical, effective and low-cost tool that has been proven to tackle all NCDs is physical activity.

The ongoing pandemic has further exacerbated this and has not only affected how we do business and interact, but has disrupted healthcare services within the diabetic community. Moreover, if the statistics are anything to go by related to deaths from this deadly virus, a case can be made that our death total would have been lower if not for NCDs such as diabetes. Nevertheless, as we look to the future and build a more equitable, resilient and better Jamaica, let us not only focus on the diagnoses or how to improve access to medication, which is excellent. However, we should also seek to expand the services that are offered to the diabetic community.

A practical, effective and low-cost tool that has been proven to tackle all NCDs is physical activity. Here are some startling statistics relating to physical activity:

  • Globally, 1 in 4 adults does not meet the global recommended levels of physical activity.
  • Up to 5 million deaths a year could be averted if the global population was active.
  • Insufficiently active people have a 20 per cent to 30 per cent Increased risk of death than sufficiently active people.

These statistics make it clear that we must get active and stay active. The Ministry of Health & Wellness must be applauded for the work they have been doing. However, the need to become more proactive is necessary. Prevention must become the hallmark of care, and our healthcare system must now mobilise other healthcare professionals inside the primary care system who, can positively contribute to the battle against NCDs, thus becoming multidisciplinary.

One such group is physiotherapists uniquely placed within the healthcare ‘system as movement clinicians who can utilise their skills and knowledge for health promotion and prevention – allowing us to create another layer to care for individuals living with diabetes. Community rehabilitation reduces the number of people becoming needlessly disabled hence preventing them From leading active lives. It also reduces pressures on ‘secondary care. Having physiotherapists in primary care would mean thousands of people with diabetes have greater access to becoming more active and thus living healthier, fulfilling lives.

As we seek throughout this month to highlight and educate the general public while increasing access to care for people with diabetes, here are some guidelines for persons who have diabetes or have a chronic disease based on recommendations from the WHO:

  1. Should do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-Intensity aerobic physical activity or at least 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.
  2. Should also do muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week.
  3. Older adults should also do balance exercises to enhance functional capacity and prevent falls as part of their weekly physical activity.
  4. Should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity (including light intensity) provides health benefits, and

Finally, the Diabetes Association of Jamaica and their partners must be congratulated for the outstanding service they have provided and continue to provide to the people of Jamaica, particularly the diabetic community. Let all of us join hands and hearts to tackle diabetes and other NCDs from a holistic perspective, thus protecting our people’s health and safeguarding our future.

Offniel Lamont is a registered physiotherapist (RPT), Chevening Scholar 2021-2022 MSc Sports Medicine, Exercise & Health – UCL (candidate) and a member of Healthy Caribbean Youth.

This article was originally published in the Jamaica Gleaner, Thursday November 11, 2021