On March 10, millions of Indians learned about the link between maternal health and diabetes. It’s an example that other countries should follow, advocates say.
India held the world’s first national GDM Awareness Day on March 10 – raising awareness about the link between maternal health and diabetes nationwide, and inviting pregnant women to hospitals and clinics for free screening.
The idea for the day dates back to September 2016, when more than 300 leaders from South Asia endorsed the Colombo Declaration – a document demanding urgent action to address the link between maternal health and diabetes. One of its recommendations was the creation of annual day raising awareness about gestational diabetes mellitus - GDM.
International and Indian associations such as the Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group in India (DIPSI), Research Society for the Study of Diabetes In India (RSSDI), Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology Societies of India (FOGSI), Association of Physicians of India (API) and South Asia Initiative on Diabetes in Pregnancy (SAIDIP) have marked National GDM Awareness Day on March 10 for the past three years. In 2019, the National Health Mission directed state-level officials to join hands with these organisations, making GDM Awareness Day a national event.
The International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology (FIGO)'s Pregnancy and NCDs committee and partners have called for national GDM Awareness Days regionally and globally. India’s National Health Mission is, however, the first government ministry to make the day official.
"We're delighted that India’s government has endorsed this idea, and hope their example inspires other governments to do the same,” says Dr Hema Divakar, a Bangalore-based gynaecologist and FIGO Council Member.
“This is a major step towards a global consensus on the management of hyperglycemia in pregnancy that was achieved at the FIGO World Congress in Rio de Janiero in 2018,” says Dr Moshe Hod, Chairman of FIGO’s Pregnancy and NCD Committee. “India, with its 40 million annual deliveries - about 30% of the global total - should be praised as the driving force leading the implementation of the FIGO Global Declaration on Hyperglycemia in Pregnancy.”
More awareness, more screening
India’s first GDM Awareness Day included training for healthcare professionals, press conferences, awareness raising events, seminars for women’s groups, and widespread screening.
“Gestational diabetes has tremendous consequences for the future diabetes burden, and this is something that needs to be widely known,” says Dr Anil Kapur, WDF’s Board Chairman and a member of FIGO’s pregnancy and NCDs subcommittee. “GDM has consequences not just for women, but also their offspring. The ultimate idea is that medical professionals and women themselves become aware that women need to be tested.”
The timing for the Indian GDM day was chosen in honour of the 10 March birthday of Dr V Seshiah for his contributions to gestational diabetes research, policy and implementation. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Diabetes Federation in 2017.
“We encourage other organisations to plan similar activities,” Dr Kapur says, adding that FIGO and the Indian organisations behind this year’s event are happy to share tools and best practices with other organisations.