In March, I was commissioned by Panos Pictures and World Health Organization to create a library of images on the topic of Diabetes in Vietnam.

Over the past 10 years, the number of cases, especially those of children, have doubled in the country, making Vietnam one of the most affected countries in the world. Historically being a disease of the more affluent sectors of society, today it affects people from all incomes, and is being linked to the rise of westernization and urbanization here.

I won’t go into a full medical explanation of the disease here, but in short, there are two common types of diabetes. Type 1, previously known as juvenile diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin, which it needs to extract glucose and energy from the bloodstream. Type 2, the more common variety, takes shape when the body becomes insulin resistant, not properly breaking down the sugar in the blood and causing levels to rise. It can be caused by unhealthy eating habits, thus often affects those with obesity issues or those with other bad habits or lacking physical lifestyles.

Over a few days, we met patients, doctors and preventionists in Hanoi, rural Ha Nam Province and Ho Chi Minh City dealing with the disease on both sides of the court.

I wanted to share a few images, stories and facts that I collected and learned while working on this assignment, in hopes of spreading awareness and knowledge. It was an educational experience to be sure, and has prompted me to be a bit more careful about what goes into my body.

There were 3.5 million cases of diabetes in Vietnam in 2015

and 53,457 adults deaths due to diabetes. 

— International Diabetes Federation

Le Hoai Son has his blood sugar checked at a rural commune health center in Doi Son, Ha Nam Province, Vietnam. (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

A patient has his blood sugar checked at a rural commune health center in Doi Son, Ha Nam Province, Vietnam.

Hanh , a diabetes sufferer, in portrait at a rural commune health center in Doi Son, Ha Nam Province, Vietnam. (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Once diagnosed, even seeking treatment is not always easy or possible. Hanh lives alone and must travel to the health center once a month for check ups and medication, which causes her great physical and monetary strains. Often times, she’s not able to afford the travel or her medication elsewhere, and thus isn’t able to take it regularly, causing problems with her eyesight.

A nurse checks the medicine in a small pharmacy at a rural commune health center in Doi Son, Ha Nam Province, Vietnam. (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

A nurse checks the medicine in a small pharmacy at a rural commune health center in Doi Son, Ha Nam Province, Vietnam.

A doctor examines a patient’s ECG results at the National Hospital of Endocrinology in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

A doctor examines a patient’s ECG results at the National Hospital of Endocrinology in Hanoi, Vietnam.

An elderly female patient has her feet checked at the National Hospital of Endocrinology in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

An elderly female patient has her feet checked at the National Hospital of Endocrinology in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Nguyen van Thiep examines the results of Le Hoai Son at a rural commune health center in Doi Son, Ha Nam Province, Vietnam. (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Patients examines the results of Le Hoai Son at a rural commune health center in Doi Son, Ha Nam Province, Vietnam.

A doctor examines the feet ulcers of an diabetes patient at the National Hospital of Endocrinology in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

 

A doctor examines the feet ulcers of an diabetes patient at the National Hospital of Endocrinology in Hanoi, Vietnam.

In Viet Nam, the prevalence of diabetes is growing at alarming rates and has almost doubled within the past 10 years.

— World Health Organization

An Effort Toward Prevention

Luu Do Thuyen's family receives a package of organic vegetables free of charge from the Nutrition Center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

A family receives a package of organic vegetables free of charge from the Nutrition Center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Dr. Diep, director of the Nutrition Center in Ho Chi Minh City, talks to a group on healthy eating choices for Diabetes sufferers. This group will then go back to their families and communities to share their knowledge. (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

Dr. Diep, director of the Nutrition Center in Ho Chi Minh City, talks to a group on healthy eating choices for Diabetes sufferers. This group will then go back to their families and communities to share their knowledge.

A dietary specialist consults with Le Thi Le on healthy eating choices for diabetes sufferers at the Nutrition Center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)

A dietary specialist consults with a patient on healthy eating choices for diabetes sufferers at the Nutrition Center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

A woman receives her insulin and medication at the pharmacy at the National Hospital of Endocrinology in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Quinn Ryan Mattingly)A woman receives her insulin and medication at the pharmacy at the National Hospital of Endocrinology in Hanoi, Vietnam.

That’s it for now. Remember to (try to) stay active, eat healthy and visit the doctor when you need to!