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Unfolding the Monumental Battle against Diabetes: Denmark and Thailand in an Unprecedented Partnership! Are You Ready for the Revolution?

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The global commemoration of World Diabetes Day on November 14, 2023 saw the Danish Embassy in Thailand joining forces with the Diabetes Association of Thailand, the Thai NCD Network, and Novo Nordisk Pharma (Thailand), organising an enlightening rendezvous centred on ‘Public-Private Partnership – The Bridge to Overcoming the Burdens of Diabetes and Obesity in Thailand’. This event sewed together a tapestry of stakeholders from the public and private sectors, blending with healthcare experts, fanning out information about diabetes, obesity, and NCDs. Its goals branched out to boosting the government and its associates in their collective endeavour to curtail diabetes prevalence and facilitate better access to medication and healthcare perks.

Held inspondently, distinguished personalities such as Dr. Opart Karnkawinpong, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, and Dr. Jadej Thammatacharee, Secretary General of the National Health Security Office (NHSO), graced the seminar. Housed within the Embassy of Denmark in Thailand, they painted a vivid canvas of Thailand’s healthcare policy and bolstered the nation’s public healthcare operations.

H.E. Mr Jon Thorgaard, Danish envoy to Thailand, shed light on the event’s spirit, highlighting the necessity of public-private alliances in combating intricate healthcare battles, with diabetes, obesity and other NCDs at the forefront. Bearing the flag of sustainable healthcare with the firm belief that it’s an investment towards a healthier future, he underscored the need for innovation, collaboration and unwavering commitment. The novelties devised by the Danish government in collaboration with Novo Nordisk Foundation at the Steno Diabetes Centre in Copenhagen – offering personalized treatment plans, raising patient awareness, and ensuring prompt medication access – were laid out as exemplary models of how public-private alliances could work.

Dr. Opart Karnkawinpong, reiterated the virtues of such partnerships, accentuating the role that “people” play. Bringing about a behavioural change in diabetes and obesity patients, creating conducive environments for increased physical activity, and propagating positive behavioural patterns were his underscored points. He mentioned the launch of the ‘Diabetes School’ project as a means to educate communities and individuals about self-care, in turn promoting the use of digital technology in public health practices to enhance treatment efficiency.

Mr. Enrico Cañal Bruland, Vice President and General Manager of Novo Nordisk Pharma (Thailand) Ltd, reflected on the global healthcare hurdles as the company enters its 100th year. He envisions the company’s strategic focus on extending its innovative treatment solutions to a broader range of therapy areas. Their commitment towards sustainable healthcare in Thailand is evident from their efforts towards enhancing accessibility to efficient screening, diagnosis, and treatment of diabetes in rural areas through the Affordability Project. The project also aims to train medical personnel for improved diabetes care and treatment, thus reducing public healthcare expenditure.

The Steno Diabetes Centre in Copenhagen was presented as a successful blueprint for robust public-private partnerships for combating diabetes. With an eye for holistic health dimensions, the centre dedicates its efforts towards advancing diabetes care and research, thereby improving the overall quality of life for patients.

Grim projections by the BMJ (2021) suggest that without substantial changes, the economic impacts from obesity would escalate to a whopping 4.9% of Thailand’s GDP by 2060. This includes both direct healthcare costs and indirect costs like lost productivity, making the need for obesity prevalence reduction a crying need.

Narrating the stark reality of type 2 diabetes prevalence, Prof. Emeritus Dr. Wannee Nitiyanant, President of the Diabetes Association of Thailand, laid out a vision of cross-sector collaboration as a solution to make improvements to patient’s quality of life aligning with the World Health Organization’s nine operational goals aimed at controlling the global non-communicable disease situation by 2025.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Petch Rawdaree, President, Association of Thai NCD Alliance, highlighted the pressing need for prevention-based strategies to tackle the nationwide obesity epidemic, which could lead to other chronic illnesses. He called for a policy-centric approach that emphasised exercise promotion, knowledge-sharing, and healthy environmental management, while also scrutinising sugar and sodium intake.

Dr. Jadej Thammatacharee, Secretary General of the NHSO, concluded the event by reinforcing their commitment towards building a sustainable healthcare system. He stressed the need for cost-effective budget allocation for high-quality and affordable medication, advocating for increased public understanding of self-care. The solidarity among all stakeholders is evident; the quest for progress in the battle against diabetes and obesity continues.

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