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Analysis: The bias against diabetes

The latest Sun Life Financial Asia Diabetes Awareness Study reveals an alarming knowledge gap in diabetes. A third of Asian women who are or were pregnant in the past three years are unaware of the risk of developing gestational diabetes in pregnancy, while one in seven births in Asia is currently affected by gestational diabetes.

The prevalence of diabetes is a growing health challenge in the region. “Sun Life has commissioned study to demystify this chronic disease,” said Jeremy Young, chief marketing officer, Sun Life Financial Asia. “It aims to bridge the knowledge gap and promoting positive perception change towards diabetes, helping people live healthier lives – both physically and mentally, in addition to achieving lifetime financial security,”

Almost a third of respondents in the region do not even know there is more than one type of diabetes. Hong Kong, one of the most developed surveyed markets, sees the lowest level of awareness with 40% of respondents not knowing this fact, whereas the Philippines demonstrates a better basic understanding of diabetes, with 85% of respondents stating they are aware of the fact.

“As evidenced by Hong Kong people’s misunderstanding of diabetes, more efforts should be devoted to address the issue,” said Belinda Au, general manager of distribution and marketing, Sun Life Hong Kong.  “In Hong Kong, Sun Life has been partnering with diabetes organisations to educate the public on the disease and will continue to be committed in doing so to raise public awareness.”

The survey also finds that respondents believe diabetes decreases life expectancy by 19 years on average, when in fact, the average is between 10 and 12 years: a significant gap between perception and reality.

About half of the respondents from Vietnam, the Philippines and Hong Kong believe that diabetes represents a burden on public healthcare systems.

On average, respondents across the region estimate that a person with diabetes has to pay approximately US$1,778 for treatment every year. Hong Kong tops the list – with the estimate at approximately US$4,400 whereas the four southeast Asian markets record an average estimate of below US$1,120. When comparing the estimate with each market’s GDP per capita, Vietnam is the most extreme case where the cost estimate is more than half of its GDP per capita (approximately US$2,310) whereas the figure accounts for one tenth of Hong Kong’s GDP per capita – approximately US$45,000.

“The alarming prevalence of diabetes in Asia will continue to put economic burden on the public healthcare systems, as well as on diabetics and their families,” added Young.

The study reveals the public’s bias towards diabetics and strong associations with unfavourable characteristics, such as dangerous driving, laziness, lack of energy, not being athletic and having mood swings. Such stigma also exists in Hong Kong, where more than half of respondents think that diabetics are not energetic.

Au continued: “Social stigma towards diabetics adversely impacts the mental health and wellness of diabetics, yet it is often overlooked. With Sun Life’s purpose in helping people live healthier lives – both physically and mentally in addition to achieving lifetime financial security, we are keen to drive, and hopeful to see, positive perception change and reduce bias against diabetes.”

Posted on: 14/11/2017 UTC+08:00


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