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Covid impacted diabetes care and research, study says


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The Covid-19 pandemic has had many effects on the health of the population, in addition to the direct impact of the disease that has already killed more than 635,000 Brazilians.

One of these effects is the worsening of health care and food, although data on lifestyle habits during the pandemic are still delayed.

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Now, new research shows that searches for information about diabetes in general, including prevention, care and symptoms, have dropped in the last two years, coinciding with the pandemic.

The survey, carried out by SA365 Health+Life, pointed to a growth in the last five years of data about diabetes on the internet and social networks, based on popular terms in Google Trends, posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and video views on YouTube. .

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However, despite some periods of high demand, such as the dates close to World Diabetes Day, on November 14, the years 2020 and 2021 registered a slight reduction in searches compared to the previous three years.

“This slight decrease can be credited to the pandemic because, with Covid-19 in evidence, diabetes awareness campaigns were left aside, as well as patients’ demand for medical care, in fear of contracting the coronavirus”, he says. Breno Soutto, responsible for the research, adding that the vast majority of people stopped doing routine exams in the period.

The upward trend that had been taking shape previously, however, should bring searches now closer to the levels seen before the pandemic, especially considering that new cases of diabetes worldwide have grown by 16% in the last two years, according to Atlas. Diabetes 2021.

In Brazil, the country with the fifth highest incidence of the disease in the world, there are 16.8 million adults living with the disease.

According to the study, whose analyzed period was from August 2016 to August 2021, the subjects that generate more sharing and public engagement in relation to the disease are eating habits and physical exercise, routine care, prevention, including diagnosis, complications and treatment, sedentary lifestyle and overweight, consolation, exchange of experiences and support network and alternative treatments and applications.

Eight profiles of users looking for information about diabetes in the country were also identified: doctors, nutritionists, physiotherapists, personal trainers, patients, caregivers, family members and traditional media vehicles.

According to Soutto, each platform has a type of content that generates more engagement, but doctors are primarily responsible for bringing education and information, with the main and most influential oncologist and Folha columnist, Dráuzio Varella, totaling more than 2 million of views in different videos on the topic.

According to data from Google Trends, however, users do not make an initial distinction between the terms diabetes and diabetes mellitus, pointing out that the search for information about the disease is not restricted only to those diagnosed with the form of the disease of genetic origin.

The analysis of the breakdown by type of diabetes shows that there is little difference between users who search for terms such as “type 1 diabetes”, “type 2 diabetes” or “type 3 diabetes”.

For the epidemiologist and professor at the Faculty of Medicine of USP Paulo Lotufo, the impact of the pandemic in motivating the search for information on diabetes, if any, would be due to an eventual increase in weight in the period.

“The only thing we can speculate about would be the increase in diabetes from weight gain. [causado] by reducing physical activity and higher intake of caloric foods, especially ultra-processed foods”, he says.

For Gabriel Laudares, marketing and communication analyst at SA365, one of the gaps in data on diabetes found by the survey is valid information, whether from companies operating in the health sector, or from hospitals and laboratories that make the diagnosis.

“In the pandemic context, many people may have discovered they are pre-diabetic, mainly because of the worsening in food and physical activity already observed during the period, and these people seek to make some more guiding decision on how to act, a terrain in which that these companies can occupy”, he says.

One of the main engagement profiles, according to the survey, are family members of patients living with diabetes, especially mothers. “It’s something that we see a lot of demand on Instagram, for example. These profiles will have the role of influencer when telling the daily life of the disease”, says Soutto.

According to a German study published in the journal of the American Diabetes Society, the incidence of type 1 diabetes in children and adolescents during the pandemic, from 2020 to 2021, was 15% higher than that observed from 2011 to 2019.

There is also a niche to talk about the disease in a more scientific context, with information based on studies, but translated for the lay public, as Dráuzio Varella does on his channel. “There is a demand for this more technical information”, he adds.

According to the study, the discussion on the topic in the digital environment today sees room to give “autonomy to doctors and patients to lead conversations and influence other people”.

“It is noted that the debate about diet and exercise as control and treatment is highlighted and is led by the users themselves, while prevention is little addressed. With the increase in the disease in the last two years and a pessimistic projection for the future, there is a great gap that can be filled to clear the doubts of patients with diabetes, bringing information that has scientific and clinical support”, says the text.

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