Thailand: Poor Struggle to Access Diabetes Care

Ineffective or insufficient diabetes treatment can be fatal for millions worldwide, according to a new study by the US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.  

Of the areas evaluated – the United States, Iran, Mexico, Scotland, England, Colombia and Thailand – only in Thailand did the poorest have more trouble accessing diabetes care than the general population. 

Thai chronic disease specialists say screenings, high-quality labs and treatment for the risk factors that can lead to diabetes – high blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol – are lacking outside big cities. 

Using data from 2004, the study found more than eight out of 10 Thai men and women were not adequately treated for these risk factors. Some had never been screened: of 3.2 million people nationwide with diabetes in 2004, 1.8 million people were unaware of their condition.

While Thailand has been lauded for its performance in HIV care, reaching near universal coverage, chronic disease care lags behind. 

“Having a system in place for one condition does not necessarily translate into good care for other conditions,” said Stephen Lim, a former research fellow in Thailand’s Ministry of Health from 2004 to 2007 and one of the authors of the new diabetes management study. 

“For HIV, awareness and advocacy for treatment… has been very high, ie. there is a very public face to the disease. In general there is not the same movement behind combating chronic diseases like diabetes.” 

Unlike infectious diseases, which have a culprit “agent”, chronic diseases have multiple causes, which make them harder to find, treat and wipe out”.

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