To mark the theme of this year’s World Health Day, which is “beat diabetes”, the World Health Organisation has launched the first global report on diabetes.
The Global Report on Diabetes says that the number of people with diabetes worldwide has reached an all-time high of 422 million. This has quadrupled from 108 million in 1980.
If this trend continues, it is estimated that over 700 million adults globally will have diabetes by 2025.
In an accompanying study, published in The Lancet, data was reviewed for 4.4 million adults between 1980-2014 by a worldwide research team led by Imperial College London and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study represented most countries in the world, but no differentiation was made between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is thought to account for 90 per cent of diabetes cases.
“Enormous cost of this disease”
The largest rise in diabetes rates was seen in low- and middle-income countries, with increased rates negatively affecting national health systems and economies due to medical costs.
International Dollars calculated that treatment for diabetes worldwide stands at $825 billion per year. This covers the cost of treatment and diabetes-related complications, such as limb amputations.
Senior author Prof. Majid Ezzati, School of Public Health at Imperial College, said: “This is the first time we have had such a complete global picture about diabetes, and the data reveals the disease has reached levels that can bankrupt some countries’ health systems.
“The enormous cost of this disease, to both governments and individuals, could otherwise go towards life essentials such as food and education.”
Stronger health systems
The aim of the WHO’s report is to “describe the burden and consequences of diabetes and advocate for stronger health systems to ensure improved surveillance, enhanced prevention, and more effective management of diabetes”.

The WHO is promoting healthy lifestyles to reduce rates of type 2 diabetes, such as quitting smoking, eating healthily and getting regular exercise. In 2014, over one third of adults were overweight and more than one in 10 were obese, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Limiting intake of processed foods is also important in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthily, be physically active and avoid excessive weight gain,” said Dr Margaret Cha, WHO director-general.
The WHO has also advocated that priority should be placed on research for treatments. Diabetes directly caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012, and the report says that increased promotion of healthier habits and improved care and treatment of diabetes is crucial in preventing further deaths.
Ezzati called for “financially accessible and effective health systems that can highlight those at high risk of diabetes or at pre-diabetes stage”. He believes stronger health systems will enable the development of diabetes to be slowed down or even prevented.
As part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, governments have been directed to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, by one third by 2030.

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