The Global Epidemic of Diabetes

This month of November is American Diabetes Month.  Diabetes is not just an American disease but an global epidemic. Everyone knows that HIV/AIDS is taking a toll in Africa but not everyone knows that Diabetes is of similar magnitude silently claiming as many deaths (3.8 million) per year. I was invited to go to the International Diabetes Federation –  World Diabetes Congress Conference in 2006 at Cape Town, South Africa, with the African-American Committee of Interest Group (AACOI) of American Association of Diabetes Educators.  I learned so much about the epidemic of diabetes not only in Africa and in America but worldwide. I always wanted to go to Africa and see what the motherland is truly like. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity so I knew that it was the right time to go.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) (  is a worldwide alliance of 200 diabetes association’s comprised of 158 countries.  For over 50 years IDF has been at the vanguard of global diabetes advocacy.  Its mission is to promote diabetes care, prevention and a cure worldwide.  IDF is committed to raising global awareness of diabetes by promoting appropriate diabetes care and prevention and encouraging activities towards finding a cure for the different types of diabetes.  In December 2011, the International Diabetes Federation – World Diabetes Congress Conference will be held in Dubai

It is predicted in 2025 – 380 million people worldwide will be diagnosed with diabetes.  It is interesting to note that the highest rate of diabetes is found in India at 40.9 million followed by China with 39.8 million and not in the United States with 21 million.  Sadly, the global spending for diabetes care is less than 15%.  The global diabetes epidemic treatment and prevention will cost at least 232 billion USD.  By 2025, the cost is likely to exceed 302.5 billion USD.  As you can see diabetes is a global epidemic and each continental region has their approach to the assessment, treatment and prevention of diabetes.

The Southeast Asia region carries the highest burden of type 2 diabetes mellitus in the world.  Presently, 40 million people are affected and it is projected to increase to approximately 80 million by 2025.  Currently, in order to combat this spread Asian healthcare is using the diabetes educational teaching and training provided to healthcare professionals who work in rural communities.  Chinese medical treatment of diabetes are being widely used which does includes herbal prescriptions, acupuncture and dietary recommendations.  

It is predicted by the World Health Organization ( in the western hemisphere region that by 2030, the prevalence of diabetes will be 67 million.  In the Caribbean there is the Lay Diabetes Education Program to assist in the treatment and care of diabetes.  In this program a lead member of the community or community health worker is selected to assist those with diabetes.  This is a community program where the diabetes education and treatment is used to combat the spread of diabetes.  

Diabetes is a leading cause of death in Europe affecting over 33.3 million people.  In 2030, it is predicted that 48 million people in the European Union will have diabetes. The National Diabetes Programs is where there are 11 out of 25 member states of the European Union that have a national framework or plan for diabetes.  Member state’s national diabetes plans vary significantly in their quality and value in reducing the disease burden and its costly complications.

In 2030 it is predicted that in the African and Middle East region the prevalence of diabetes will be as a combined total of 60 million.  There is a high incidence of obesity which attributes to the high incidence of type 2 diabetes.  The care and treatment of diabetes in the Middle East regions promotes a holistic approach to diabetes care and prevention.  To combat the high incidences of Mature Onset Diabetes in Youth (MODY) there are wellness days in the school systems on diabetes prevention.

Since the IDF Conference was held in South Africa, the AACOI and I went to the G.F. Jooste Hospital in one of the townships nearby downtown Cape Town.  There we witness and discuss about the problems of diabetes care and treatment going on at this particular hospital.  There are 1.2 million people who live in the township and have access to G.F Jooste Hospital.  This medical hospital has only 90 beds and currently serves between 70 to 80 thousand patients monthly.  At the moment there is no chronic or diabetes care unit available due to the widespread epidemic of HIV and TB.  Since there is no diabetes care unit at the hospital the people with diabetes that develop Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) may not receive the appropriate treatment they need.  There is an Intensive Care Unit in the hospital where treatment of DKA patients is administered but there are only eight beds available for all chronic disease and trauma patients.  In one day, the hospital does 38 leg amputations and this is due to lack of diabetes education, information and general ignorance of diabetes treatment and care. The average stay for patients is two days and there have been incidents where many people have been sent home before they are suppose to be discharged.  Dealing with people with diabetes at G.F. Jooste Hospital is usually a full time job since the patients are using the hospital as a clinic.  This hospital is the only place available to the patient’s disposal since it is open 24 hours day and 7 days per week.

So what can we do to stop this global epidemic of diabetes?  There are organizations that are bringing awareness, education, prevention and treatment worldwide.  There is the International Diabetes Federation that I have mentioned that is leading in a campaign with the United Nations.  The campaign is “Unite for Diabetes”  which is to raise awareness of diabetes and its complication, to improve diabetes care worldwide and to advocate for action to tackle the diabetes epidemic.  The joint collaborated efforts of the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization organized the primary global awareness campaign of the diabetes world called World Diabetes Day  It was first introduced in 1991 in response to concern over the escalating incidence of diabetes around the world.  It is celebrated every year on November 14th and this year 2011-2013 theme is Diabetes Prevention and Education.

The ravages of diabetes will never go away unless everyone makes an effort.  Early diagnosis and early education are crucial to preventing complications and saving lives.  All of the healthcare communities, educators and patients around the world must join forces to stop this epidemic from spreading, prevent the condition in those at risk, and avoid unnecessary death and disability.  If we do not do this then the future generations will unfortunately have to deal with the dire consequences of this major global epidemic.   For more information on Living Healthy please check out my website: .  Be Blessed!


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