By Dr. Theresa Marie Faller, Immediate Past President of the Alliance of Clinical Endocrinologists, Philippine Chapter
The Philippines is one of many Asian countries seeing an alarming rise of diabetes cases. Rapid urbanization, sedentary lifestyles, and increasing dependence on electronic gadgets are all significant factors contributing to the uptick. As its management can be physically, emotionally, and financially demanding, diabetes has a profound impact not only on the lives of patients but also their loved ones.
According to estimates published by the International Diabetes Federation, about five million Filipinos live with diabetes. For adults between the ages of 20 to 79 years old, the prevalence rate for diabetes stands at about 6.3%.
The challenges faced by Filipinos with Diabetes
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, diabetes is the 5th major cause of death in the country, and the situation for Filipinos with diabetes became even more complicated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a chronic condition, diabetes entails multimodal management that integrates medical nutritional therapy, exercise, pharmacologic therapy, close monitoring, and follow-ups. However, quarantines, mobility restrictions, and the utilization of many healthcare resources to combat COVID-19 posed additional challenges to Filipinos with diabetes seeking treatment.
Even before the pandemic, the ability to afford comprehensive treatment has hindered Filipinos with diabetes from using digital approaches to manage their conditions.
The everyday challenges in care that Filipinos living with diabetes face create a greater need for balanced, holistic, and accessible diabetes management solutions.
Digital solutions ease the complexities of diabetes management
Technology’s role in healthcare has expanded exponentially over the past decades. The ability to store, share, and analyze health information is directly tied to improved technology. These developments allow patients to see their glucose levels in real-time—simplifying the care process for both patients and caregivers. these trends have created new paths for remote patient management that can positively impact diabetes care. These innovations in diabetes care also enable healthcare providers to see the patient’s insulin therapy, stress levels, medication, carbohydrate intake, and more, allowing the development of patient-centric approaches to care. Described as a collaborative effort between patients and healthcare providers, this approach can help lead to optimal clinical outcomes for patients living with diabetes.
For diabetes patients, mobile health innovations such as the mySugr app simplify the complexities surrounding their conditions. By leveraging insights, multi-device connectivity, and analytics, the mySugr app empowers patients to make lifestyle changes geared towards optimal health outcomes. Together with some colleagues, we conducted research presented at the 2021 International Diabetes Federation Congress that showed how utilization of mobile health apps such as mySugar led to notable progress in blood sugar control for Filipino and Asian living with diabetes after six months.
Moving forward with a holistic approach to diabetes care
As the pandemic continues, and even when we transition to an endemic phase, access to diabetes medications and treatment will continue to be a challenge for Filipino patients. Filipinos living with diabetes must continue to be vigilant and pro-active in managing their conditions. By incorporating a holistic approach to diabetes management that involves proper nutrition, exercise, and data management powered by digital technology, Filipinos living with diabetes can stay on top of potential concerns and efficiently manage their conditions through this uncertain time and beyond.