World Diabetes Day was recently observed around the world. The focus of this year’s theme is on families. This is particularly important here in Pakistan; given that genetic research scientists contend that the driving factor contributing to the country’s diabetes epidemic is inter-family marriages. Thus underscoring the long-term impact of certain cultural attitudes on health and longevity. Globally, some 415 million people suffer from this incurable disease. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), Pakistan was home to almost 7.5 million reported cases of diabetes last year alone. And given that doctors label the condition the ‘silent killer’ due to symptoms appearing over prolonged periods of time — the figure, in fact, could be much higher. Already, this disease claims the lives of some 80,000 Pakistanis each year. Health ministries at both the federal and provincial levels must take notice of this; while working with local with health workers at the district level. Insulin has to be made more readily available to those who require it. The medical profession, for its part, should take the lead in educating local communities, particularly women and girls, about the very real dangers of inter-family marriages. This is vital. After all, diabetes is now the ninth most common cause of death among Pakistani women; posing severe risks to pregnancy, childbirth, and maternal health. Such initiatives can and should be supplemented by NGOs and schools. But it is vital that doctors take the lead here to avert unnecessary conspiracy theories. The country is facing a devastating financial crisis. That much is understood. Thus as provincial set-ups continue to hand out emergency food packages — they would do well to try and include a few portions of fresh fruit and vegetables. Though, this may not be entirely feasible when it comes to reaching remote areas due to the perishability of these goods. In which case, efforts need to be made to bring down the prices of fresh produce; possibly through subsidies. While raising awareness of the best cooking methods to avoid diminishing natural benefits. To be sure, there is much work to be done. But if Pakistan can more or less beat polio — there is no reason why it should not tackle the silent killer any less ardently. * Published in Daily Times, November 19th 2018.