Helping people with diabetes manage their health and lives in Brazil

April 2016

Daniel Bruno da Silva stands outside the store he has built in his home in Brazil.
WHO/E. Martino

As it is in most countries around the world, diabetes is on the rise in Brazil. But efforts being rolled out nationwide, supported by WHO, are helping Brazilians like Daniel Bruno da Silva manage often debilitating health consequences, and lead productive lives at the same time.

He lives in a residence of the Brazilian social housing programme Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My House, My Life). Daniel has turned his home in the town of Dias d’Avila into a store that sells household cleaning products.

“I have adapted my house to also serve as a corner shop,” says Daniel, proudly. “It serves my very small and isolated community.”

This support was vital for Daniel, who besides living with diabetes has also suffered a stroke and requires additional health care and support.

Health and economic impacts of diabetes

As explains Dr Lenildo de Moura, who works on the prevention and control of diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) for WHO/PAHO Brazil, unchecked diabetes poses additional health complications, often along with financial hardship.

“Diabetes has severe financial and health impacts for many Brazilians, and it is increasing. Amputations, blindness, kidney failure: these are the consequences many people face from poorly managed diabetes,” says Dr Moura. “And when people’s health deteriorates, it means they can’t work, and in such cases the support of family members is required to put food on the table.”

Such consequences are evident at the Centro de Prevenção e Reabilitação da Pessoa com Deficiência (the Centre for the Prevention of and Rehabilitation of People with Disabilities), or CEPRED, located in Salvador, Bahia State Capital.

A man takes care of his amputated leg.

Rehabilitation is key to diabetes management

“Nearly all of the people who come to CEPRED for rehabilitation after needing limb amputations have diabetes,” says Dr Moura. “This is because some people don’t know they have diabetes. When some people come to the hospital, they find out about diabetes at that time, and it is often too late.”

It is for this reason, he says, that continued investment in early detection of diabetes is key not only in helping people find out if they have diabetes, but to learn to manage it effectively to ensure people with diabetesmaintain the highest level of health possible. Appropriate rehabilitation for people living with complications associated with diabetes, including amputations, is key.

In Brazil, national, state and municipal health authorities invest in a wide range of education and awareness activities. They aim to promote healthy diets and physical activity to address risk factors for diabetes, including overweight and obesity. Early detection is another key measure promoted to prevent and manage the complications of diabetes. The Brazilian Ministry of Health provides drugs free of charge to everyone with diabetes and related conditions, including hypertension.

WHO backing diabetes prevention, health promotion

WHO supports Brazil with these actions, helping health authorities implement programmes on prevention, diagnosis, early detection, and managing diabetes-related complications. Close partners in these efforts also include civil society networks.

But the rising prevalence of obesity and overweight in Brazil are resulting in more people developing type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of this form of the disease has increased steadily since 1980, with 8.8% of females and 7.4% of males living with diabetes. More than half of adults in Brazil are overweight and 20% are obese.

“Beating diabetes and other NCDs is a priority for Brazil. To do so, continued investment and commitment in health care and promotion is essential,” adds Dr Moura.