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[Opinion] Diabetes

Posted March. 14, 2005 22:12,   


“Diabetes mellitus,” the Latin word for diabetes, means a "sugary fountain." In this sense, diabetes can be translated as "a disease that leads people to make sweet urine." It is said that the first ever record of the disease was found on an Egyptian papyrus scroll known to have been made around 3500 B.C. The treatment of diabetes first started in 1921 with the discovery of insulin that reduces blood sugar in a dog`s pancreas. However, a cure for it is yet to be found, just like the common perception of the disease, which is something that patients should live with for life.

Reports have it that the number of Korean diabetics has hit the four million mark. Currently, more than 500,000 people develop the disease every year, which leads to the worry that 7.22 million people or 14.4 percent of the country`s total population will be diabetics by 2030, if the trend continues. It is certainly a serious concern, as evident in the fact that people have even coined a phrase: "A tsunami of diabetes." It is fair to say that diabetes is a disease for advanced countries in that it stems from an oversupply of nutrients and a lack of physical activity. It is good to see the country join the ranks of advanced nations. But it leaves a bitter taste in our mouths that the country has also taken the side effects of industrialization as well.

It is high time for the government to draw up countermeasures on a national level. It is no exaggeration that the government has no plans to combat diabetes, considering that its budget associated with the disease has stayed at a mere 1.2 billion won a year. The situation is totally different in the United States and Japan, which have been carrying out systematic diabetes prevention and management projects. As a government promoting "advancement" of the country, the Korean government should start with increasing its spending in combating this disease.

What counts more is individual patients` efforts, as the government cannot take responsibility for individual lifestyles like a healthy diet and regular exercise. Obesity was considered a symbol of wealth when the country was mired in poverty. However, now that the vast majority of people make a decent living, it is often seen as evidence of negligence in efforts to keep in shape. Wouldn’t the perception of diabetes also change in the same way? Experts say, "Diabetes does not compromise your everyday life as long as you thoroughly take care of yourself."

Song Moon-hong, Editorial writer, songmh@donga.com