BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Diabetes is still the third leading cause of death in Brunei while the number of diabetic patients continues to rise every year, the health minister said.

Citing figures from the 2015-2016 national STEPS-wise survey on chronic diseases, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohammad Isham Hj Jaafar said 9.7 percent of adults aged 18 to 67 have high blood sugar levels.

In addition, the Brunei Darussalam National Health and Nutrition Status Survey (NHANSS) 2009-2011 found that 12.4 percent of the country’s population had diabetes.

In a statement to mark World Diabetes Day 2020 on Saturday, the minister paid tribute to nurses and their role in supporting diabetic patients.

Addressing this year’s theme of ‘Diabetes: Nurses Can Make a Difference’, he said nurses and other health professionals are becoming increasingly important in helping and managing the impact of diabetes.

“Nurses are among the first health professionals that patients and family members trust and interact with. Therefore, it is very important for every nurse to provide quality assessment, care and treatment services to patients,” he added.

A total of 2,507 nurses are currently serving public hospitals, health centers and private clinics in 2019, according to data from the health ministry.

“They carry out extraordinary responsibilities in various areas of health and medical expertise in supporting community life and the role of nurses is more prominent this year as they are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said YB Dato Dr Hj Mohammad Isham.

In line with the International Diabetes Federation’s recommendations, the health ministry has carried out diabetes education training for nurses since the late 1990s.

Qualified nurses are trained to take on the role of diabetes nurse educators (DNEs), who provide comprehensive diabetes care while meeting the physical and psychosocial needs of patients.

The ministry has appointed 19 DNE nurses who are currently serving in government hospitals and health centers nationwide.

The minister added that DNEs also organised the Healthy, Balanced, Loving (3S) diabetes education programme at Pengkalan Batu Health Centre for diabetic patients who are unable to control their sugar levels.

In 2016-2017, the 3S programme participants were found to have decreased their blood sugar levels after six months.

To enhance diabetes training in the country, the health ministry will collaborate with Politeknik Brunei’s School of Health Sciences to offer a Level 5 Diploma in Health Science course for diabetes nurse educators in January 2021.