Spotlight on Malaysia

This quarter, the Malaysian Diabetes Association, a Member Association of IDF, is in the spotlight. Set against the backdrop of increasing numbers of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and climbing medical costs, Prof. Dato’ Dr. Ikram Shah Ismail, Chairman of the association, describes the challenges of living with diabetes in Malaysia and his organisation's response to the epidemic.

What are some of the challenges facing people with diabetes in your country?
Some of the challenges facing people with diabetes in Malaysia include how to manage diabetes to avoid complications in the face of rising costs for monitoring devices such as meters and strips.

Another challenge is the availability of trained manpower and facilities, namely, diabetes specialists, diabetes educators, foot care nurses and equipment. This problem is particularly felt in smaller towns and villages in Malaysia. Additionally, children and adolescents with diabetes lack education programmes such as diabetes camps, activities and materials to create awareness on diabetes, diet and exercise.

How do you overcome these challenges?
The 14 state branches and 40 district branches of the association regularly organise talks, health screenings, counseling etc to increase awareness of diabetes and its complications. The association and the majority of its branches sell monitoring devices at reasonable prices.

Some of the challenges facing people with diabetes in Malaysia include how to manage diabetes to avoid complications in the face of rising costs for monitoring devices such as meters and strips

Health professionals especially doctors and nurses are the frontline when it comes to helping people with diabetes. As such, the association organises a diabetes conference every year attended by about 500 health professionals and a workshop attended by about 200 nurses. The aim is to update healthcare professional knowledge with the most recent scientific advances and innovations.

The association partners with hospitals to organise diabetes camps and activities for children and adolescents with diabetes. We published an ‘Information Guide – Diabetes in Schools’ to assist the school teachers and parents on how to help students with diabetes while at school. The association has also published a book on ‘Diet and Diabetes’ to help the people with diabetes to manage their diet.

Can you tell us one of your success stories?
In 2008 we established the Diabetes Children Fund to help children and adolescents with diabetes below the age of 18 years and youth up to 25 years of age. We provide them with free glucometers (once only), and monthly supplies of strips, needles and lancets.

By the end of December 2012, 198 children/adolescents and youth had already benefited from this Fund. So far RM 222,214 (USD 67,000) has been paid out. Since inception, funds raised have not been sufficient but we are confident that in 2014 the total will improve.

We also established a Diabetes Adults Fund to help poor and needy adults with diabetes above the age of 65 years and disabled adults (blind people, amputees and chronic diseases) with diabetes below the age of 65 years. By the end of 2012, 112 adults have benefited from this fund so far RM 84,258 (USD 26,300) has been paid out.

Do you see any changes for people with diabetes in your country on the horizon ?
As a whole, I do not see any changes for people with diabetes in Malaysia on the horizon. Clinically, we are seeing more and more children and teenagers with type 2 diabetes. The findings of NHMS 2011 confirm this clinical impression and trend. Our task is therefore even more daunting as we need to start such prevention programmes early and effectively.

Prof. Dato’ Dr. Ikram Shah Ismail’s Biography Trained in medicine at the University of Queensland, followed by attachments at Diabetes and Endocrinology units at Newcastle-upon-Tyne where he obtained the MRCP (UK) in 1989. Submitted a thesis on regulation of hypothalamic function in diabetes and awarded a PhD by the University of Wales in 1993. Since returning from the UK in 1993, he has been involved in the treatment of patients with diabetes and endocrine problems at the UM Medical Centre and involved in research, both basic and clinical, in the field of diabetes and endocrinology.He was awarded the State Honours DIMP by the Sultan of Pahang in 2009 with the title “Dato’”

The Malaysian Diabetes Association was formed in 1981 and was registered in 1983 as a non-profit, non-governmental organisation to help people with diabetes to lead a normal life.