"Diabetes is affecting all classes of our society, be it rich or poor, high caste or low caste, urban or rural residents. So it is no longer the disease of the rich alone," said Dr Ambady Ramachandran, Director, India Diabetes Research Foundation (IDRF), Chennai, Tamil Nadu. In a recent study conducted by IDRF in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, prevalence rates of diabetes were found to at par in rural and urban areas, dispelling the misconception that diabetes is only affecting the rich living in urban areas.
Dr Ramachandran further said that "Diabetes exerts a life-long financial burden for treatment. It is not only the cost of medicines but the recurring costs of ongoing home monitoring, laboratory investigations and hospitalizations also add to the financial burden. Also, the changing prevalence of disease patterns is likely to increase the burden of chronic diseases like diabetes in developing countries such as India."
According to Diabetes Atlas published by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), there were an estimated 40.9 million people with diabetes in India in 2007 which is about 16.7% of the global number of people living with diabetes. This number is predicted to rise to almost 70 million people by the year 2025. The countries with the largest number of people with diabetes will be India, China and USA by 2025. It is estimated that every fifth person with diabetes will be an Indian. The economic burden on India due to such a high incidence of diabetes is amongst the highest in the world.
Comparatively, the urban adolescents are more prone to type-2 diabetes than those residing in the rural areas. These urban adolescents have a higher intake of refined cereals as well as high fat and calorie-dense foods. Moreover, they are less likely to engage in regular physical activities. These factors lead to an increased incidence of obesity and consequently a higher risk for the onset of type-2 diabetes at an early age. Overall, patients with young-onset type-2 diabetes are only found in urban areas, and more so in affluent households. On the other hand, type-1 diabetes can occur equally in urban or rural areas. India is a land of famines, floods, local conflicts, large population and a high illiteracy rate. All these factors, coupled with uncertain economic conditions, are likely to impede the diabetes' prevention and awareness programmes.
It may be pertinent to mention here that the theme for World Diabetes Day 2008, (www.worlddiabetesday.org) as envisaged by IDF is 'Diabetes In Children and Adolescents', keeping in mind the increasing incidence of diabetes in youth. This is a matter of grave concern and needs to be tackled. No child should die of diabetes.
Without primary prevention strategies at the public health level, the number of undiagnosed and uncared for people with diabetes will increase, as also the number of complications arising out of this disease, thus requiring a higher technological input. This in turn will limit access to health care for a large numbers of patients.