Many COVID deaths had diabetes, direct correlation seen

Dr. Ann Pobutsky, Guam's Territorial Epidemiologist. (PNC file photo)

Guam commemorated Diabetes Alert Day and a coalition is working to raise awareness on the health risks associated with the disease.

The Guam Diabetes Control Coalition organized Diabetes Alert Day as a day to bring a “wake-up call” to everyone and bring attention and focus on the seriousness of diabetes and the importance of understanding one’s risk.

The coalition organized a virtual gathering of coalition members and stakeholders. The nonprofit’s mission is to educate the community on how to lower its risks for diabetes and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Ann Pobutsky, Guam’s Territorial Epidemiologist, spoke at the event on COVID-19 risks and the prevalence of death among those with Type 2 diabetes.

Pobutsky says that in 2019, Guam had an estimated 12 percent diabetes prevalence rate compared to the U.S. rate of 11 percent which means approximately 22,000 people in Guam have diabetes.

She says the estimated prevalence of diabetes in Guam’s population comes from the 2019 estimates from the CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Zeroing in on the pandemic, Pobutsky says she noticed that back in the fall during the COVID surge, when a lot of deaths were recorded, they were able to analyze the data and saw that a lot of people with diabetes were dying of COVID.

“We’ve seen a consistent pattern during the past 6 months in diabetes death. The proportion of people who have died, and who also have a diagnosis of diabetes, is continuing to be approximately half. Sometimes it is 48 percent, sometimes it is 52. But it has been a consistent pattern for the past six months so we know that people with diabetes are definitely at risk. In contrast. Only about 9 percent of the cases during the same time period had a diagnosis of diabetes, which is very similar to what we would see in our population,” Pobutsky said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero says the government is willing to appropriate resources to help in the fight against the disease.

“I also know that more resources need to be invested in this cause to promote regular health screenings so we can catch this terrible disease early and help people manage it My administration is completely committed to increasing the data and research devoted to to diabetes prevention which are necessary to understand diabetes prevalence on the island,” the governor said.

Lt. Governor Josh Tenorio also shares some of these initiatives — from focusing on children’s nutrition to partnering with GDOE in developing a healthy care initiative for families.