“Let’s march on together to strengthen this crusade to tackle diabetes”, Dr Mahendra Patel

Blog post written by Mahendra Patel
Dr Mahendra Patel is a pharmacist, academic and Principal Enterprise Fellow in Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacy, University of Huddersfield, Fellow of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Medical School, University of Sheffield with published work in the BMJ, and a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society National Pharmacy Board. His career has spanned community practice, health promotion, academia, research, guideline development and voluntary work. His specialist interests revolve around the health status of black and minority ethnic (BME) groups and health inequalities – especially relating to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and barriers to accessing treatment.
Life is not always fair…

…yes, we all know that. But we have to make use of the hand that we have been dealt positively, to feel well, live longer and importantly help others in the process.

I am personally and selfishly concerned about the significantly higher and increasingly growing rates of diabetes that prevails among those of South Asian origin (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka). This is because of having immediate Indian ancestry, I am now SIX times more likely to suffer from diabetes1 compared to my white European friends!

In addition, I have two young adult children now entering the prime of their lives. Not only are they at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (like thousands of other young South Asians), but they are worryingly more likely to suffer from the disease as early as 25 years of age, as opposed to 40 in those of white European origin2. To top it all a recent report3 outlined how young diabetes patients generally receive fewer vital checks than older patients and in fact those under 40 receive the worst routine care and treatment. This is all now becoming seriously worrying.

The challenge we all face is to genuinely accept and successfully attempt to manage the higher and inevitable risks of associated related conditions that come packaged with diabetes; for example high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks and high cholesterol. Studies show that survival rates within young South Asians in such instances are significantly lower compared to their local white counterparts4. The only option left for me is to come to terms with the increased potential risks I have as a South Asian, and to deal with them head on!

Let’s march on together to strengthen this crusade to tackle diabetes. Increasing awareness of the risk of diabetes and its complications through effective education is the only way forward. With the support of healthcare professionals such as your local community pharmacist, and organisations such as the South Asian Health Foundation (SAHF)5, Diabetes UK6 and British Heart Foundation7, it is essential that we get lots of information about this nasty disease disseminated as widely as possible, but most importantly in a format that is easy to understand and readily accessible to all the South Asian community. South Asians are already at a much increased risk of Type 2 diabetes; they need to understand exactly what their diagnosis means to them and their families, and the possible side effects that come with it. The key message and my plea to everyone is please help in getting information out through every possible avenue!

Remember Type 2 diabetes can go unnoticed for up to ten years, by which time cardiovascular complications such as heart disease may well be gathering great speed. To my two beloved and dear to my heart now adult children, and to all those in a similar position to myseIf and with children over the age of 25, start getting yourselves checked for Type 2 diabetes – the sooner the better. Many local community pharmacies offer a free diabetes screening service and, of course, you can also go and visit your nurse or GP at your surgery.

I shall leave you with my message for diabetes:

  • To all diabetics and South AsiansGet yourself checked without delay
  • To all young South AsiansGet yourself checked even earlier

Let’s all tackle diabetes together!


1. http://www.diabetes.org.uk/Documents/Reports/diabetes_disadvantaged_06_execsum.pdf
2. http://www.diabetes.org.uk/Documents/How%20we%20help%20other/DL3_summer2006.pdf
3. http://www.hscic.gov.uk/article/5102/Young-diabetes-patients-receive-fewer-vital-checks-than-older-patients
4. http://www.diabetes.org.uk/About_us/News/Young-South-Asian-people-at-higher-risk-of-diabetes-and-associated-heart-disease/?print=1
5. http://www.sahf.org.uk/
6. http://www.diabetes.org.uk/
7. http://www.bhf.org.uk/


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