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Diabetes, a leading threat to global health and development

By Punam

November 14, 2010
The author is a health and development journalist. She has worked with mainstream news papers. She can be contacted at:

World Diabetes Day is the best opportunity there is to draw attention to the silent killer that is diabetes. Celebrated every year on 14 November, World Diabetes Day was initiated in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat that diabetes poses to the global community. An official United Nations Day since the passage of UN Resolution 61/225 in 2006, World Diabetes Day draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public spotlight. It is represented by the blue circle – the global symbol of diabetes.

Diabetes is a leading threat to global health and development. According to IDF, the disease now affects over 300 million people worldwide and will cost the global economy at least US$376 billion in 2010, or 11.6% of total world healthcare expenditure. A further 344 million people are at risk of developing type 2diabetes, the most common form of the disease. If nothing is done to reverse the epidemic, IDF predicts that by 2030, 438 million people will live with diabetes at a cost projected to exceed US$490 billion.

"Ninety years after the discovery of insulin and four years after UN Resolution 61/225, the number of people with diabetes continues to grow at a staggering rate. In every country and in every community worldwide, we are losing the battle against this cruel and deadly disease," said IDF President Jean Claude Mbanya.

Faced with these alarming numbers, World Diabetes Day aims to establish access to diabetes education as a right for all people with diabetes, to promote greater awareness of the risk factors and warning signs of diabetes, and encourage best-practice sharing in diabetes prevention.

This year sees the second of a five-year campaign (2009-2013) that addresses the growing need for diabetes education and prevention programmes throughout the world. The theme for World Diabetes Day 2010 is "Let's take control of diabetes. Now," In keeping with this theme, IDF has developed a special web application – the Blue Circle Test—to showcase the risk factors for type 2 diabetes and highlight the positive actions that individuals can take to help prevent the disease.

The world is finally waking up to the threat of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). On May 13 this year, the UN General Assembly voted unanimously for UN Resolution 64/265 to hold a UN High Level Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases in September 2011. A similar Summit on HIV/AIDS in 2001 proved a turning point for the fight against that disease.

"The UN Summit will bring heads of state, government representatives, NGOs and public health experts together to discuss the global threat and commit to the global response required for diabetes and other NCDs," Ann Keeling, IDF Chief Executive Officer said. "World Diabetes Day provides an ideal platform to disseminate and promote IDF's key messages and objectives for the UN Summit," Ms Keeling added.

To mark World Diabetes Day this year, IDF is coordinating a programme of work – called the Diabetes Roadmap - that will produce and package arguments, evidence and solutions to ensure the UN Summit translates into real change for the millions of people with diabetes worldwide.

A Call to Action on Diabetes has been launched on November 14 in the diabetes epicentre of the world: China. China has 92.4 million adults with diabetes (1 in every 10 adults). A Call to Action is the central advocacy tool for the global diabetes community in the lead up to the UN Summit, bringing the global diabetes epidemic to the attention of world leaders, and guide and secure action, commitment, support and resources for diabetes. The document has been unveiled as part of World Diabetes Day festivities at the iconic Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Celebrations will extend from China to various countries in the world, with famous landmarks and monuments once again lighting up in blue for diabetes awareness. "Our global diabetes champions will literally bring diabetes to light on World Diabetes Day. No matter where we are, it's our efforts that will make World Diabetes Day a truly global success," said Prof Mbanya.

Posted on: November 15, 2010 08:12 AM IST


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