Sat | Mar 24, 2018

Diabetes is a killer that can be stopped

Published:Wednesday | April 6, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Glucometer with medication and a syringe


This year, World Health Day, which will be commemorated tomorrow, will focus on ways to halt the rise of diabetes worldwide.

In that regard, the main goals of the World Health Organization (WHO) are to increase awareness about the rise in diabetes, and its staggering burden and consequences, in particular in low- and middle-income countries; and to trigger a set of specific, effective and affordable actions to tackle diabetes. These will include steps to prevent diabetes and diagnose, treat and care for people with diabetes.

A non-communicable disease (NCD) that directly impacts millions of people of globally, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose which may over time lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. The prevalence of diabetes has been steadily increasing in the past few decades, in particular in low- and middle-income countries. Knowledge exists to reverse this trend through targeted prevention and appropriate care.

Diabetes - the main forms of which are type 1 and type 2 - and its complications bring about substantial economic loss to people with diabetes and their families, and to health systems and national economies through direct medical costs and loss of work and wages.

Working to prevent, detect and treat diabetes is also critical to development. Within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, governments have set an ambitious target to reduce premature mortality from NCDs - including diabetes - by one-third; achieve universal health coverage; and provide access to affordable essential medicines - all by 2030.

Diabetes is one of four priority NCDs targeted by world leaders in the 2011 Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of NCDs and the SDGs 2016-2030. The Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020 provides a road map and menu of policy options to attain nine voluntary global targets, including an additional target to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity by 2025.

Diabetes, therefore, is an issue relevant to people around the world, as well as multiple stakeholders, including government, civil society, the private sector, and intergovernmental agencies.




1. About 350 million people worldwide have diabetes, a number likely to more than double in the next 20 years. There is an emerging global epidemic of diabetes that can be traced back to rapid increases in overweight, including obesity and physical inactivity.

2. Diabetes is predicted to become the seventh leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030. Total deaths from diabetes are projected to rise by more than 50 per cent in the next 10 years.

3. In 2012, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths. More than 80 per cent of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

4. There are two major forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is characterised by a lack of insulin production and type 2 diabetes results from the body's ineffective use of insulin.

5. A third type of diabetes is gestational diabetes. This type is characterised by hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, with values above normal but below those diagnostic of diabetes, occurring during pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and at delivery. They are also at increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the future.

6. Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1 diabetes. Type 2 accounts for around 90 per cent of all diabetes worldwide. Reports of type 2 diabetes in children - previously rare - have increased worldwide. In some countries, it accounts for almost half of newly diagnosed cases in children and adolescents.

7. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of deaths in people with diabetes. Diabetes has become one of the major causes of premature illness and death in most countries, mainly through the increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

8. With more than 80 per cent of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, in developed countries most people with diabetes are above the age of retirement, whereas in developing countries those most frequently affected are aged between 35 and 64.

9. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, amputation and kidney failure. Lack of awareness about diabetes, combined with insufficient access to health services and essential medicines, can lead to complications such as blindness, amputation and kidney failure.

10. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented. Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days and a healthy diet can drastically reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.