ith some four million Sri Lankans including schoolchildren known to be afflicted by the silent killer disease diabetes, we joined the international community on Saturday in marking World Diabetes Day on the theme, ‘Healthy living starts at breakfast’ – the focus being starting each day right by having a healthy breakfast. We hope these themes will not be restricted to mere words and that those who are reading it now or become aware of it in other ways will make it fruitful not just by agreeing it is a good idea, but by acting on it and doing it.
According to Diabetes prevention and management specialists, a healthy breakfast should prevent blood sugar levels from getting too high and should keep people fit through the morning. Whilst cereal and toast may be cheap, these options typically raise blood sugar levels rapidly and may leave people hungry again before lunch. World Diabetes Day was jointly introduced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). The global diabetes awareness campaign was introduced amid concern over an escalating diabetes epidemic. According to the website Diabetes.co.uk, November 14th is a significant date in the diabetes calendar because it marks the birthday of insulin’s co-discoverer Frederick Banting. He and American-Canadian medical scientist Charles Best discovered it in 1922. The logo of World Diabetes Day is a blue circle and this is recognized by millions of diabetes patients throughout the world.
World Diabetes Day is celebrated in a multitude of ways around the globe. These include a range of activities and events, such as meetings and lectures to spread public information, sporting events for adults and children, television, radio and newspaper programmes, leaflet and poster campaigning and exhibitions and conferences.
In Sri Lanka, the new National Unity Government went beyond mere sugar-coated pills and gave special emphasis to the nationwide battle for the prevention and practical management of diabetes.
President Maithripala Sirisena, a former Health Minister, is giving personal leadership to the education and awareness campaigns. Last Saturday, the President led a Diabetes Day march from Independence Square to the BMICH where a meeting was held. Giving teeth to the campaign was Health Minister Rajitha Senarathne, a dentist, who presented to the President and the nation a full scale plan to combat this disease. According to Sri Lankan specialists, the number of diabetes patients has increased drastically if not disastrously during the past 10 years and is now in the range of a staggering or shocking 20 per cent. Most dangerously, this figure includes tens of thousands of schoolchildren who have been afflicted by this silent killer largely because their parents and elders, teachers and medical doctors failed miserably in their responsibility to give the innocent children
During the past 40 years, when Sri Lanka swallowed wholesale the good and the bad ingredients in the globalized capitalist market economic system, the diet and lifestyle process has changed for the worse. Instead of healthy breakfast options like gram or green gram, cow pea or urid dhal (ulundu) and other healthy food, most children from rich and middle-class families have been allowed or encouraged to move into the destructive fast food chain. As a result they swallow some imported junk or processed rubbish for breakfast – going against the theme ‘Healthy living starts at breakfast’. We hope World Diabetes Day will be a turning point for the parents, elders and the children.
The wide-ranging midterm economic strategy outlined by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on November 5, and to be spelt out by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake in the budget on Friday, is described as revolutionary third generation economics. If that is so, if that is to be the foundation, then it must begin with the children who need to be given a healthy breakfast so that they could grow up to be healthy, wise and productive citizens who would be guided by the vision of a Just Society and be inspired to put the country first in what they do.
Like the revered Sobitha hamuduruwo - who passed away on November 8 after holding aloft the light of good governance, democracy and social justice – we hope the National Unity and Good Governance leaders and others will inspire the children not by mere talk but by acting justly and living in a humble way in line with the time tested values of Alpechchathavaya.