Every seven seconds, 1 person in the world dies of Diabetes. 1 in every 9 USD related to healthcare in the world is spent on diabetes. India has 60+ Million diagnosed diabetics, however there is almost an equal number that remain undiagnosed. If we do not take diabetes seriously and keep it in check, it can lead to drastic consequences – blindness, foot amputation, heart disease, kidney and liver dysfunctions are all outcomes of diabetes related complications.
Having personally suffered at the hand of diabetes, we have embarked on a journey to educate diabetics regarding possible risks and complications, besides working closely with them to become compliant and in control. We do this through use of our free mobile app BeatO to control diabetes that educates and enables the user in balancing their nutrition and physical activity. It also allows users to connect to their diabetes educators who can guide them through various queries they may have.
In the last few months, we have come to realize the importance of making people understand the seriousness of diabetes as most don’t take action until it is too late. We are glad that there is now an effort by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself to address this concern to motivate people to beat diabetes. Imposing the Sugar tax on aerated beverages, chocolates etc. is a step in the right direction especially given that there is evidence from Mexico that suggests that when people are taxed on sweetened beverages, consumption goes down. However, this is certainly not the foundation to control the diabetes monster and is too small an action to make a major impact when implemented stand-alone.
The average age of a person becoming a diabetic is 10 years younger in India compared to Europe, and this speaks volumes of not only our food habits but also the sedentary and stressful nature of our daily routine. To bring awareness about the importance of a holistic balance in our daily routine is an important step we as a society need to undertake.
Hence, whilst there are several short term steps that the government will have to take to beat diabetes, we shouldn’t lose sight of structural changes we will have to make as a society. At the micro level, few such initiatives may include
- Getting kids involved in outdoor sports and physical activity from a young age
- Companies rewarding employees for proper lifestyle balance
- Easy to understand nutrition labelling on local food products
- Proper signage/food indicators to make people understand the food and ingredients they consume
- Spreading local awareness among communities regarding seriousness of diabetes and its associated complications.
On a macro level, the government and society needs to join hands to improve the quality of staple foods and develop culturally appropriate interventions that would improve our regional diets. In addition, various participants of the healthcare ecosystem – be it the healthcare providers (offline and online), insurance companies, pharma companies or large diagnostic chains will have to join hands to provide holistic, convenient and affordable diabetes care with education at its core. This brings us to the role that the Health Coach or Diabetes Educators will have to assume in this ecosystem. Whilst a patient may meet a doctor for 5 minutes only 2 times a year, this individual will need to spend a lot more time engaging with their diabetes educator. Hence, the diabetes educators will have to assume centre stage instead of being on the periphery of the current system. This will require proper training and education of the educators themselves. This requires more attention from the government and in fact can be made more prominent through the Skill India movement.
India incurs close to USD 10 Billion on diabetes related expenses. At an individual level, these costs accumulate over a person’s lifetime, where they incur heavy out of pocket expenditure on ambulatory expenses such as diagnostics, physical exams and medicines. Moreover, in India, these costs are not covered by insurance, and in most cases, Insurance companies do not even entertain diabetics for a hospitalization plan. This poses a significant challenge to a large population in a country like India where there exists a huge disparity in access and distribution of quality healthcare services, more so in primary healthcare. We have witnessed several cases, where parents of young Type 1 diabetics did not even understand basics of diabetes and how to manage it, mainly driven by their lack of ability to access right diabetes related education from the right healthcare providers.
Here is how one can beat diabetes?
India stands at the cusp of becoming a digital force to be reckoned with, especially with the Prime Minister’s vision of Digital India. However, whilst valuations of technology start-ups soar in other areas, healthcare, with its complexities and its question on affordability and access does not draw as much glamour yet from entrepreneurs and investors alike. Whilst medicine delivery and appointment solutions catch the investors’ eye, solutions to real problems will at first need to come from the grass roots. Having said that, I do believe that with the advent of affordable smartphones, use of mobile solutions and assisted technology will ensure fast and convenient dissemination of diabetes related education and increase in engagement with providers/educators to in turn drive up compliance and prevent or delay complications to beat diabetes. This will reduce the huge cost burden diabetes brings on our nation and to the individual. This is where BeatO is committed to this cause and we are leveraging technology to ensure we bring about high quality diabetes related educational content and deliver comprehensive diabetes care that is convenient and affordable!
About the Author:
Gautam is a first generation entrepreneur who is determined to address gaps and asymmetries in the chronic care space. He became a pre-diabetic who had high cholesterol levels at just 32 yrs of age. This was his wake up call to gain back control. He launched BeatO with his friends Abhishek and Yash, to provide comprehensive diabetes care that is affordable and convenient. He has not only reversed his condition, but in the process supported several like him to be in control and beat diabetes with BeatO app.
Gautam is an MBA from the Indian School of Business and worked across geographies in leadership and managerial roles before returning to India in 2015 to start BeatO.