World Diabetes Day, November 14

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World Diabetes Day is celebrated every year on 14 November. The date commemorates the birthday of Frederick Banting, who, along with Charles Best, is credited with the discovery of insulin in 1921.

In almost every country of the world, diabetes is on the rise. The current number of people with diabetes stands at over 230 million. The disease is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputation, heart attack and stroke. It is one of the most significant causes of death, responsible for a similar number of deaths each year as HIV/AIDS.

President of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Professor Pierre Lefebvre outlines the facts: "Over a fifty year period, diabetes has become a global problem of devastating human, social and economic impact. The total number of people living with diabetes is increasing by more than 7 million per year. If nothing is done, the global epidemic will affect over 350 million people within a generation. Unchecked, diabetes threatens to overwhelm healthcare services in many countries and undermine the gains of economic advancement in the developing world."

The theme chosen by the IDF and WHO for this year's World Diabetes Day is 'diabetes in the disadvantaged and the vulnerable'. Diabetes representative organizations worldwide are drawing attention to diabetes health inequalities and promoting the message that every person with diabetes has the right to the highest attainable healthcare that their country can provide.

Diabetes hits the poorest hardest.

Contrary to the widely held perception that diabetes is a disease of the affluent, studies show that the economically disadvantaged are at higher risk. The global picture reveals that within 20 years 80% of all people with diabetes will live in low- and middle-income countries, in many of which there is little or no access to life-saving and disability-preventing diabetes treatments.

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In affluent countries, people who are relatively poor are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes. In the USA, for example, households with the lowest incomes have the highest incidence of diabetes.

A cruel choice

The impact of diabetes on these individuals and their families is often devastating. It is estimated that poor people with diabetes in some developing countries spend as much as 25% of their annual income on diabetes care. As IDF President-Elect Martin Silink puts it, "For some, the consequences of diabetes can be merciless. The economically disadvantaged are pushed further into poverty and face a terrible choice: pay for treatment and face catastrophic debt, or neglect their health and face disability or premature death."

The elderly, ethnic minorities and indigenous communities are all disproportionately affected by the diabetes epidemic. In developed countries, people over the age of 65 are almost 10 times more likely to develop diabetes than people in the 20-40 year age group. In the United States, it is estimated that one in two people from ethnic minorities born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes during their lifetime, compared to one in three for the general population. In Canada, the prevalence of diabetes among First Nation peoples is three to five times higher than that of the general population in the same age group. The same is true among Australian Aborigines.

To do nothing is not an option

The diabetes epidemic threatens to be one of the greatest health catastrophes the world has ever seen. To coincide with November 14th this year, the International Diabetes Federation is calling on the global diabetes community to rally behind the campaign for a United Nations Resolution on diabetes by signing an online petition at www.unitefordiabetes.org and passing a virtual version of the blue circle that has come to symbolise diabetes.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is an organization of over 190 member associations in more than 150 countries. Its mission is to promote diabetes care, prevention and a cure worldwide. IDF leads the campaign for a UN Resolution on diabetes.

World Diabetes Day is an initiative of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Visit www.worlddiabetesday.org for further information.

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