KARACHI:,,, Pakistan has too few diabetes specialists to treat the nearly 19.4 million people suffering from the disease, said experts at a seminar at Aga Khan University held to announce the launch of a six-month certificate course in diabetes that seeks to expand access to the knowledge and skills needed to treat and manage the disease.

The country has only one specialist, also known as an endocrinologist, for every 200,000 diabetes patients, according to Pakistan Endocrine Society. Similar shortfalls in training and awareness of diabetes are present at all levels of our healthcare system, speakers added. The current deficits in managing the illness, which has no symptoms, mean that many patients often seek care when they are suffering from advanced complications from the disease.

The new course is part of a collaboration between the University, the British Medical Journal and Royal College of Physicians (London) to help doctors across Pakistan improve their theoretical and practical knowledge of the disease. It will include modules covering managing diabetes, its complications, lifestyle and obesity management, inpatient diabetes control and how to handle comorbidities in diabetes. The course is open to all registered healthcare professionals who hold an MBBS degree.

Diabetes not only reduces the quality of life of patients but also puts them at risk of a range of complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, nerve damage, serious eye problems and even disability. As high as 60 per cent of non-traumatic lower limb amputations in Pakistan occur in patients with diabetes.

“To reduce the burden of complications of diabetes, physicians have to be well-equipped with the knowledge to confidently diagnose the disease and refer for tertiary care in the case of a complication or inability to achieve good control of diabetes,” said Professor Najmul Islam, chair, section of endocrinology, department of medicine at AKU, and course director of the diabetes certificate course. “The course will offer the most updated and evidence-based knowledge to manage patients.”

Experts at the seminar shared that Pakistan’s healthcare professionals often lack the expertise to manage the disease adding that short courses can bridge the gap and equip clinicians to manage the high burden of diabetes in the country.

The model of improving knowledge through educational courses for controlling and treating diabetes has proven to be effective worldwide. Studies in United Kingdom have shown that diabetes education in healthcare professionals can help in reducing the amputation rate, a condition that can develop in both type 1 and type 2 patients. The course is set to begin from January 2021.