Meticulous plans have been drawn up and the stage set with many firsts by a group of committed doctors to battle the stranglehold that endocrine diseases and diabetes is gaining over Sri Lanka. The 7th annual academic sessions of the Endocrine Society of Sri Lanka (ESSL) will be inaugurated with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as [...]


Battle by committed docs against dreaded diabetes to begin

7th annual academic sessions of the Endocrine Society of Sri Lanka

Meticulous plans have been drawn up and the stage set with many firsts by a group of committed doctors to battle the stranglehold that endocrine diseases and diabetes is gaining over Sri Lanka.

Dr. Uditha Bulugahapitiya

The 7th annual academic sessions of the Endocrine Society of Sri Lanka (ESSL) will be inaugurated with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as chief guest and Prof. Susan Davis, a world renowned Consultant Endocrinologist from the US as guest-of-honour on Thursday (October 1) evening at the Hotel Galadari in Colombo.

Prof. Davis is representing the President of the Endocrine Society of the United States of America (USA).

The sessions are being held in collaboration with the Endocrine Society of USA, a first in the country. More than 60 representatives from all over the world including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Korea, United Kingdom, USA, Canada and Australia are due to participate.

The list of ‘firsts’ goes on, with ESSL founded back in 1979, metamorphosing to the stronger ‘Sri Lanka College of Endocrinologists’ with a membership of more than 200, at the conclusion of the sessions.

On the morning of October 1, meanwhile, a parallel meeting of the South Asian Federation of Endocrinology Societies will take place at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo.

It will be another first that a large and powerful delegation from the American Endocrinology Society will attend this meeting which is of regional importance to this part of the world.

‘ESSL 2015’ will create a platform to provide a great opportunity to the South Asian region to reach the international arena in endocrinology and diabetes, pointed out ESSL President Dr. Uditha Bulugahapitiya, explaining that it will be a forum for world-renowned experts to contribute to the upliftment of this field in this region.

“This is in keeping with our society’s theme ‘Linking with the World in Achieving Excellence’, which is intended to transcend our Annual Academic Sessions to an international platform,” he said.

Detailing the scientific programme, Dr. Bulugahapitiya said it would broadly cover “the essentials in endocrinology and diabetes while addressing contemporary topics in-depth”, benefiting not only the endocrinologists and diabetologists but also internists.

What is endocrinology?

This is the medical specialty dealing with hormones and hormonal disorders which include diabetes, thyroid problems, pituitary diseases, obesity, short stature and sexual problems.

Referring to the important role played by ESSL, Dr. Uditha Bulugahapitiya said that the society has formulated guidelines for the main endocrine disorders while also strengthening the knowledge of doctors and nurses and carrying out awareness and prevention programmes among the public.

Referring to some of the work carried out by the ESSL this year, he said that peripheral meetings were held in Wadduwa and Batticaloa to take the message to the outstations.

This year’s second edition of the bi-annual Sri Lanka Journal of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (SLJDEM) will also be launched at the academic sessions and Dr. Bulugahapitiya said he was proud to provide the first fully-open access journal dedicated to this field in Sri Lanka.

This would be a boon to clinical endocrinologists, other clinicians who have a special interest in the field and postgraduate trainees. “Excellence, accessibility, expansion and evolution are the tenets which guide the SJDEM,” he added.

Meanwhile, over the years, since it was set up in 1979, some of the major contributions of ESSL, are the establishment of endocrinology as a sub-specialty in 1995; publication of the first volume of the ‘Endocrine Update’ in 1996; establishment of paediatric endocrinology in 2004; holding of the first Annual Academic Sessions and the ‘Dr H.N. Rajaratnam Oration’ in 2009; establishment of SJDEM in 2010; publication of the first issue of SJDEM in 2011; release of the Guideline on Thyroid Disease and launch of society’s website in 2012; holding of the 5th Annual Academic Sessions & 5th SAARC Diabetes Congress in 2013; and holding of the 6th Annual Academic Sessions in collaboration with the Society for Endocrinology UK in 2014.

While hoping to add new vigour to clinical care and research through the scientific programme, the ESSL has also organized a ‘Meet the Professor’ session to discuss difficult case scenarios, turning talk into action and an ‘Endocrine Quiz’.

Young researchers would also be afforded an opportunity to present their scientific work and communicate with the experts engaged in cutting-edge research in this field.

Public phase of war on diabetes

The war against this spectre which causes illness, injury and death will be taken to a different phase with the launch of the ‘public face’ of ‘Diabetes Sri Lanka’ under the aegis of the Sri Lanka College of Endocrinologists.

Dr. Noel Somasundaram

With one of the ‘faces’ in this public organisation being popular cricketer Roshan Mahanama, Dr. Prasad Katulanda pointed out that through ‘Diabetes Sri Lanka’ they are hoping to deal with all aspects such as education, prevention, patient support and advocacy for policy changes.

‘Diabetes Sri Lanka’ will have representatives from the Health Ministry as well as all medical professional colleges and societies and vitally three public figures including cricketer Roshan Mahanama, it is learnt.

The need for a strong public campaign becomes obvious when looking at statistics:
• 1 in every 10 adults above the age of 20 years has diabetes either diagnosed or undiagnosed
• 1 in 10 are in the pre-diabetes stage
• 1 in 5, therefore, either has diabetes or is in the pre-diabetes stage.
• A majority does not even know they have diabetes
• Earlier the prevalence of diabetes among urban adults was 16% but a recent small study shows it to be as high as 25% (1 in 4 people)
• The prevalence of diabetes among rural adults was found to be 8% earlier.

Sounding an urgent warning, Dr. Katulanda said Type II diabetes thought to occur in adults is raising its alarming head among obese children.

As Sri Lanka’s demographics change with a rapidly ageing (above 60 years) population, there are indications that in urban areas, one in every other adult in this group is having diabetes, he said.

Dr. Prasad Katulanda

“This is why we need a big public effort to combat diabetes not only by treating the patients but by wide-ranging emphasis on prevention and strengthening of research, which needs funds,” said Dr. Katulanda, underscoring that there is an urgency to reduce the burden. Otherwise, development will also be badly affected.

‘Diabetes Sri Lanka’ has as its vision to be the first nation to develop a healthy population where chronic preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs) do not obstruct economic progress.

Its mission, meanwhile, is to reduce the incidence of diabetes by 30%; reduce diabetes-related micro and macro-vascular complications such as blindness, amputations, renal failure and heart attacks and stroke; and reduce premature mortality related to diabetes.

Adding his voice to these major concerns, Dr. Noel Somasundaram painted a grim picture – “the future looks scary”.

If no action is taken right now, people will be dying of diabetes on the streets, due to heart attacks which are the most common, when linked with hypertension and cholesterol. “It’s a deadly combination.”

He pointed to the need to work with people not only for early identification and treatment of diabetes after thorough screening but also prevention through lifestyle changes.

This is why the Sri Lanka College of Endocrinologists got together with all the experts to come up with a ‘10-Year Master Plan’ to deal with diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol. The plan has been submitted to the Health Ministry’s NCD Unit.

Citing an example of what is included in the plan, Dr. Somasundaram said that it is proposing the setting up of Healthy Lifestyle Clinics (HLCs) to reach each and every local catchment area at the grassroots.

Currently only 40% of the population is covered by these HLCs and the plan is proposing 100% coverage at the end of 10 years.

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