With global numbers of those living with diabetes expected to rise by more than 100 million over the next nine years, it’s never been more important to understand the impact the disease has on the health and wellbeing of society.
In 2019 more than four million deaths worldwide were attributed to complications from diabetes, and as more than three out of four people diagnosed with diabetes live in low and middle-income countries – obtaining the necessary healthcare is very rarely a given.
Which is why the theme of this year’s World Diabetes Day on the 14th of November 2021 is ‘Access to Diabetes Care’, as even today, millions of those with the disease don’t have regular, effective and life-saving care to manage their diabetes (staggeringly, half of those living with diabetes are undiagnosed).
Big issues to overcome
There’s no question that diabetes is one of the biggest health epidemics facing the human population, with nearly half a billion people globally living with the disease. And unfortunately, there’s no sign of that number slowing any time soon.
In addition, there are a number of fronts that those in the healthcare and medical industry are up against. From the obesity epidemic that is directly correlated to the increase of those with type 2 diabetes, to lack of education and care when it comes to diagnosing both type 1 and 2 diabetes, and the consequential life-long treatment and support that is required for those with the disease.
Further to the effect that diabetes has on the individual, there also needs to be consideration of the impact it has on their family and the community around them. Not only is there a significant financial cost for the healthcare systems in each country (with 1 in every 4 healthcare dollars spent in the US caring for a person with diabetes), but reduced life expectancy and serious complications arising from diabetes is a strain on every member of society – whether directly or indirectly.
Perhaps one of the more ‘positive’ aspects of this year’s World Diabetes Day is that it is a chance to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the discovery of the first insulin that would become commercially available. The two Canadian scientists who discovered insulin – Frederick Banting and Charles Best – were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1923.
This breakthrough has literally saved millions of lives over the past 100 years, as those with type 1 diabetes simply wouldn’t survive without it. And for those with type 2 diabetes, they would be far more susceptible to serious and life-threatening health issues, like heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness and lower-limb amputation. But tragically, one in two people who need insulin can’t afford it, or access it.
How to make a difference
This November 14th, everyone can make a difference by engaging in a number of activities, particularly those that focus on raising awareness of care. You could reach out to a local or national policy-maker to highlight the issues that those living with diabetes face, many of whom don’t have adequate access to the treatment and support they need.
You could encourage your local school to have a ‘learn about diabetes’ education event, for both students and their parents – as it is an issue no part of society is immune from. There may be local diabetes awareness walks that you could participate in, or organise if there isn’t one on the calendar already.
In the workplace why not arrange a ‘diabetes awareness day’ (and contact your local diabetes society for information to provide). And encourage everyone you know to take an online test that uncovers a person’s risk of having type 2 diabetes. It’s certainly not something to be afraid of – as an early diagnosis often means the individual can prevent or at least delay the onset of any serious problems caused by diabetes.
The message that is most important to get across this World Diabetes Day is that funding of medicine, technology, support and care for every person with diabetes (as well as preventative action) is absolutely crucial to control a disease that has the potential for catastrophic consequences the world over.
From timely diagnosis, to policies that can truly make a difference – there is so much more that can be done to reduce the burden this disease has on our population.