Pragya Narang turned 24, recently, and spent the day with her family and friends cutting cakes, dancing and treating her close ones to a sumptuous dinner. That day, Ms. Narang was celebrating what she considers to be the best gift she received — low scores on the HBA1C, or the glycated haemoglobin test. For most of us, the numbers and the test make no sense; but, it is a daily reality to 31.7 million Indians, according to the World Health Organization. Ms. Narang got a 6.7 score on the test, which measures a person’s average blood-sugar levels over a six-month period. A score over 12.0 is high risk, while 6.0 indicates normal levels. To get to that almost-normal score, Ms. Narang, a special-education teacher at Vishwas Vidyalaya in Gurgaon, a suburb of Delhi, had to balance the demands of her physically active job with the regimen her doctor prescribed: four insulin shots a day, regular fiber-rich meals and lots of exercise.
Her colleagues at work are used to her schedule now, and the sight of her taking shots. There aren’t any sick rooms for her to use, and she doesn’t get any special concessions or privileges from her school. Soon, Indian companies and work places may have to come up with policies that accommodate the needs of people with diabetes, from a sick room to take their insulin shots in privacy to guidance on how to manage diabetes as a working adult. Nearly half of the nation’s population is expected to have some form of this ailment by 2030, according to the World Health Organization, and the number of patients hit a high of 79.4 million at that time. The International Diabetes Federation, a worldwide alliance of 200 diabetes associations based in Belgium, attributes the growing prevalence of diabetes (particularly Type 2) in developing countries like India to the rise in obesity among both adults and children.
In a bid to combat the surging masses of affected population, the Indian Health Ministry has decided to screen school-goers for diabetes as part of a national program that was created by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with an estimated outlay of 12 billion rupees ($268 million) for 2010-2012. The program, already has started screening India’s adults, 30 years and above, for diabetes and hypertension. “The key to fight [diabetes] is a disciplined life,” said Dr. Shubda Bhanot, a diabetes educator at Medanta hospital in Gurgaon, a suburb of Delhi. She advocates that once diabetes is diagnosed -medication, counseling, strict diet, physical activity and regular monitoring of sugar levels is the only way to achieve “breakthrough results.” It’s not easy for those with diabetes to transition into the structured life that the ailment demands.