Marking World Health Day in Serbia

On 7 April 2016, Serbia marked World Health Day under the slogan "Beat diabetes". Many events were held to raise awareness about the disease, which affects about 760 000 people in the country.

The WHO Country Office participated in a meeting and press conference in Belgrade, held by the Ministry of Health and the Institute of Public Health of Serbia "Dr Milan Jovanović Batut". Zlatibor Loncar, the Minister of Health of Serbia, joined the press conference, at which he stated that work on the national programme for prevention and early diagnosis of diabetes will be intensified. He also announced the expansion of the network of counselling sections in primary health care centres.

Both Dragan Ilić, Director of the Institute of Public Health, and Nebojsa Lalic, President of the Committee for the Prevention of Diabetes, emphasized that health systems needs to be improved overall in order to increase prevention of diabetes and decrease mortality. Miljana Grbić, WHO Representative to Serbia, highlighted the need to reduce the intake of sugar, saturated fat and salt in order to prevent diabetes. She suggested that the country may want to adopt price increases for products that contain these ingredients.

Many activities were organized throughout the country to increase knowledge about diabetes and to promote healthy lifestyle choices. The Secretariat for Health and the Institute of Public Health of Vojvodina organized free blood glucose level tests and blood pressure tests in Novi Sad. In Nis and Bogatic, leaflets on healthy lifestyle were distributed among the citizens. The health centre and the local Red Cross office in Arandjelovac placed a health stand in front of the municipality building to raise awareness about diabetes.

Diabetes in Serbia

According to the Institute of Public Health of Serbia, 470 000 people or 8.1% of the adult population in Serbia are aware that they have diabetes, while approximately 290 000 are never diagnosed and do not undergo treatment. Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death in Serbia. Diabetes is also an economic problem, considering that about 12% of the cost of the health care system goes towards treatment of this disease and its complications. The direct cost of diabetes in Serbia over the last year is estimated at around 285 million euros.