BROOKLYN (New York): Diabetes affects 246 million people worldwide and is expected to affect some 380 million by 2025. Each year another 7 million people develop diabetes. Every 10 seconds a person dies from diabetes-related causes. These are chilling statistics that point to a disease that is on par with HIV/AIDS as a major killer. We need to declare a war on diabetes. On this marking of World Diabetes Day let us recommit ourselves to fighting this disease that is responsible for so much loss of life, loss of limbs and loss of productive days.
As a trained podiatrist, I get to see first-hand what unchecked diabetes can do. The statistics show that some 70,000 children aged 14 and under develop type 1 diabetes annually. India now has the largest diabetes population in the world with an estimated 41 million people, amounting to 6% of the adult population. The fact is that diabetes is a world health problem and not simply limited or confined to poor areas of the globe. What is so alarming is that just over 50 years ago diabetes was unheard of. Now this disease is truly a global epidemic. The thing is that it has not been given the attention that AIDS have been given and this is unfortunate since Diabetes rivals AIDS as the number one killer in both the developed and developing world.
November 14 is the most important day of the year for the over 250 million people with diabetes worldwide. World Diabetes Day draws attention to the global diabetes epidemic and the need for action to improve care, prevent the disease in those at risk and find a cure. People on every continent, from countries as far apart as Australia and Uruguay, have organized activities to mark the day. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced World Diabetes Day more than 15 years ago in response to the worrying rise of diabetes around the world.
Today the picture is even more alarming, with the total number of people living with diabetes now estimated at over 250 million. The figure will continue to grow without significant action and investment to reverse the trend. One of only a handful of health days officially recognized by the United Nations, World Diabetes Day is celebrated every year on 14 November—a date chosen to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting, who is widely credited with the discovery of insulin in 1921.
Diabetes in Children
Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood. It can strike children at any age, including pre-school children and even toddlers. Over 200 children a day develop type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that cannot be prevented. Type 2 diabetes, widely associated with weight gain and lack of exercise, was previously thought to be an adult-only disease. Type 2 is now affecting an increasing number of children worldwide. Diabetes in children is often diagnosed late or is misdiagnosed as something else such as the flu. One of the campaign goals for World Diabetes Day 2008 is to make the public aware of the most obvious warning signs of type 1 diabetes: frequent urination, rapid weight loss, lack of energy and extreme thirst. Those closest to the child – family members, school staff, the family doctor – need to know these signs. Juvenile Diabetes is a growing problem and is associated with childhood obesity, parental history of diabetes and poor eating and dietary habits. Diabetes has been characterized as a both a genetic and behavioral lifestyle disease. You cannot change your DNA but you sure can eat better and make nutritious dietary choices that help to prevent the disease.
While it is true that type 1 Diabetes is not preventable, up to 80% of type 2 diabetes is preventable by a healthy diet, increasing physical activity and promoting a healthy lifestyle. The devastating effects of diabetes on families translate into significant losses for every individual in society. The mechanisms are many: loss of investments in trained labor; increased taxation (in all its forms) for medical care and support of the disabled; the economic failure of family units and small businesses; withdrawals of children from education (especially girls) to care for ailing relatives; AIDS, tuberculosis, crime and other adverse consequences of destitution; and the general loss of the hope and self-reliance that ultimately drive all economic growth. Considering mainly the effects of premature mortality, WHO estimates that (between 2005 and 2014) diabetes, heart disease and stroke combined will cost:
- $555.7 billion in lost national income in China,
- $303.2 billion in the Russian Federation;
- $336.6 billion in India;
- $49.2 billion in Brazil
- $2.5 billion even in a very poor country like Tanzania.
Much of the heart disease and stroke in these estimates is linked to diabetes.
If nothing is done, diabetes threatens to subvert the gains of economic advancement globally.
Accounting for disability, the opportunity costs of care-giving and other factors might triple these WHO figures. Government budgets worldwide will face the immense strain of diabetes care on disability payments, pensions, social and medical service costs, and revenue. Furthermore, private health insurers and employers will face the spiraling costs of treating more and more people with diabetes.
Disparities in spending for medical care
Still, there are significant disparities that have erected many barriers to care and have made it difficult for many countries of the world to combat the Diabetes scourge. Among them are: