Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally. In South Asians mortality in women with diabetes stands second highest. There is a marked gender discrimination which is faced by women across South Asia esp in access to services and support for diabetes, resulting in high rates of morbidity and mortality in women with diabetes. The most important risk factor identified for the diabetes epidemic is obesity along with genetic susceptibility. Lack of health care, social and cultural disparity, discrimination at work, disparity in marriage, restricted medical facilities are prevalent. Diabetes and depression are common in women. Increasing age, low level of education, low socioeconomic conditions, difficulties posed in finding partners, frequent divorce and family history of psychiatric illness are significant risk factors for diabetes and depression. Such patients usually have poor metabolic control, higher complication rates, increased healthcare costs, lost productivity, lower quality of life as well as increased risk of death. Preconception counseling should be incorporated in the routine diabetes clinic visit for all women of childbearing potential. Women with diabetes should have information and access to contraception. Proper family planning counseling and psychological support can help stop practices such as female foeticide and multiple pregnancies. Psychological support to patients and their families are needed to break the barrier. There is emerging evidence that women with diabetes are more prone to untoward outcomes as compared to men. Central obesity, metabolic syndrome and the polycystic ovary syndrome show ethnic specific differences in South Asian women. Optimal sexuality is an integral part of holistic health. Shortage of trained female health care professionals, lack of privacy in over-crowded health care facilities, a social taboo attached to such matters, and lack of confidence in patients contribute to the neglect of sexual issues in women attending diabetes clinics across South Asia. Guidelines for counselling in female sexual dysfunction, written in culturally appropriate manner for South Asia, are needed. Diabetes affects women more severely because of their unique biological, cultural and socioeconomic circumstances. Women have limited access to health care facilities because of illiteracy, ignorance and negative social customs. Transcending the gender hierarchy and inequality is a formidable challenge. Sensitising men, empowering women on self care and providing peer support maybe the answer to this challenge. It is essential for health care providers to use appropriate coping mechanism such as building psychological contact with the patient, including family and friends as part of social support and empower patient with complete process of managing diabetes. Increasing awareness through the media, seminars, posters, group discussions and education, regular monitoring and consulting the doctor, support group for women and facilities for aerobic exercises are recommended. The health care systems should consider custom-designed prevention and control programs tailored for women based on local and regional attitudes on health care, cultural beliefs, and available social support systems. Policies that empower adolescent girls and young women to take control of their metabolic management must be encouraged. Provision of gender specific diabetes education with a holistic life-cycle approach is recommended.
Keywords: South Asian region, Women with diabetes, gender disparity, health care access, social & cultural factors, Women empowerment