With National Diabetes Month here, it’s important for us to understand diabetes on a global level. Diabetes has been around for thousands of years, and is continuing to advance throughout the world. Worse than ever, it’s a growing epidemic with a devastating physical, emotional and financial toll on our world. 371 million people in the world have diabetes, and almost half of those people don’t know that they have it.
With the numbers escalating and the education limited, it’s imperative for people to know about diabetes and to know the severity that comes with it. To give you a better idea, take a look at these statistics-
-Over the next 20 years, the number of people with diabetes in Africa will almost double. This region has the highest mortality rate due to diabetes.
-21.2 million people in Europe don’t know that they have diabetes.
-6 of the top 10 countries for diabetes prevalence are Pacific Islands.
-China has 114 million people living with diabetes. India follows up in second with 63.0 million, and the U.S takes third with 24.1 million.
-More people in the United States die each year from diabetes than AIDS and breast cancer combined.
-In 2012, 4.8 million people died due to diabetes.
-471 billion U.S. dollars were spent on healthcare for diabetes in 2012 alone.
-WHO projects that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030.
One of the main issues involving diabetes is the lack of attention and funding we have seen from governments. Considering the number of people affected and its cost impact, diabetes prevention and research does not receive nearly as much support as diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS. “For people with diabetes to be able to take the important action of monitoring their blood sugar regularly, we need to make it financially feasible for them to purchase the supplies they need, and we need to teach them and their care team why and how they need to do this monitoring,” said William Hsu, M.D, Senior Director of Joslin Health Solutions International.
He is confident that Joslin can bring its experience, insights, and solutions to bear on diabetes throughout the world. “The situation calls for leadership to break down traditional barriers. We need collaborative, interdisciplinary solutions. We need new technology, new approaches, and new points of contact for patients. We need all stakeholders to work together: public sector, private sector, academia, consumers, patients, providers, industry.”
Getting governments involved is just one of the issues faced in this growing epidemic. Nearly half of people with diabetes are undiagnosed, this makes it an impossible problem to solve when people don’t know there in an issue in the first place. “Diabetes awareness –including prevention, diagnosis and treatment– must start at the community level. We must reach out across spheres of influence to help take the stigma out of diabetes, to help people realize that it is better to know about, and then take control of their diabetes, rather than to ignore it,” said Dr. Hsu.
“We also need to take the long view, building to the future. Training medical students and junior doctors and nurses from other countries in diabetes knowledge and skills in listening to and engaging patients will ensure that we can affect the next generation and beyond,” he said.
Joslin Diabetes Center is doing just that. Joslin is the world’s largest diabetes research and clinical care organization. It is dedicated to ensuring that people with diabetes live long, healthy lives and that real hope is offered toward diabetes prevention and a cure.
“Joslin is one of few institutions in the world that combines research, clinical care and education all focused on a single disease. We extend our mission to prevent, treat and cure diabetes and its complications without regard for geography,” said Hsu of his place of work. “In the past decade, Joslin has created programs with partners in Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates; has conducted needs assessments in the Middle East, Mexico and the Caribbean; and is developing public awareness resources and pharmacist training in Saudi Arabia and has conducted educational programs in over 15 countries.”
WHO (World Health Organization) is another organization that is dedicated to preventing and minimizing the complications of diabetes globally. Through their Diabetes Programme, WHO “oversees the development and adoption of internally agreed standards and norms for the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, its complications and risk factors.” It promotes and contributes to the surveillance of diabetes as well as advocates for the prevention and control of diabetes in vulnerable populations.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is dedicated to “engaging in action to tackle diabetes from the local to global level.” At IDF, the main focus is worldwide awareness and advocacy. Aiming to increase public awareness and encourage health improvement, IDF “promotes the exchange of high-quality information about diseases and provides education for people with diabetes and their healthcare providers,” says their website.
Having organizations like Joslin, WHO and IDF keep Dr. William Hsu positive- “while the situation is grave, research advances and growing public awareness give me hope. I am optimistic that Joslin can bring its experience, insights and solutions to bear on diabetes throughout the world.”