Today, International Women’s Day, while we celebrate the achievements of women around the globe and call for gender equality, let us also take the opportunity to put a spotlight on health issues that affect women.
We recognize that good health is fundamental to enabling women to live a full life and one of the health risks that women, and the broader community in Asia, are lacking awareness of is gestational diabetes, which affects one in seven births, according to the International Diabetes Foundation.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a condition that develops during pregnancy when an expectant mother’s blood sugar levels are above normal, and often disappears after giving birth. It is one of the three types of diabetes, a condition where a body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin is impaired. Type 1 diabetes is a condition where little or no insulin is produced by the body and the individual needs insulin administration; whereas Type 2 diabetes emerges due to insufficient insulin production by the individual’s pancreas to manage one’s blood sugar levels.
The good news is gestational diabetes is detectable through prenatal screening, which helps mitigate the health risks impacting both the mother and the unborn child. Typical complications related to the disease include difficult deliveries, potential increased need for labor inducement or a cesarean section procedure and premature births.
Knowledge gap in Asia
The general public’s knowledge gap in gestational diabetes, as revealed by our recent five-market regional Diabetes Awareness Study, is concerning. It reaffirms the need for more and continuing education to boost the public’s awareness and understanding of this health issue.
Of the 2,119 respondents surveyed in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, 42 percent were unaware that pregnant women have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. In Indonesia, the majority (60 percent) of the respondents were completely unaware of the risks.
The situation in Hong Kong is no less concerning – nearly one in three people (32 percent) do not understand the risks. Thirty percent of women surveyed in the region who had been pregnant in recent years were also unaware that pregnancy increases the risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Important role for private sector
Alongside efforts by governments and health organizations to educate the public on gestational diabetes, we believe it is also crucial for companies in the private sector to contribute and empower the community to prevent and manage gestational diabetes.
The private sector should continue to help bridge the knowledge gap and equip women around Asia, as well as the broader community, with the basic knowledge of gestational diabetes. It is important for women to be aware of it and of the steps they can take to prevent gestational diabetes.
Early intervention and active management of this health risk includes:
- Prenatal screening for early diagnosis;
- Adoption of a healthier diet;
- Active lifestyle including regular exercise;
- Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels and medication.
Public-private sector collaboration
We believe further education of the public on type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes is needed to demystify this health risk and take away any misunderstandings and misconceptions. Therefore, we see collaboration between the public and private sectors on initiatives to encourage people to live healthier lives as the way forward.
We believe working together with diabetes organizations on initiatives such as donating monitoring supplies for diabetics and promoting opportunities for regular check-ups for those living with the condition, should be encouraged. This approach not only benefits the health of individuals and the broader population, but also relieves pressure on the public healthcare systems, making them more sustainable in the long term.
Truly, knowledge is power, and we hope that by raising awareness of gestational diabetes, we can help more women, especially pregnant mothers, to maintain a healthier and sustainable lifestyle.
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