With the World Health Organization (WHO) warning that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death by 2030, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is emphasizing that people must take steps towards leading healthy lives while governments create conditions to stem the global epidemic.
Close to 350 million people in the world have diabetes, a chronic disease that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or when it cannot effectively use the insulin it does produce to help the body metabolize the sugar that is formed from the food we eat.
“There is much all of us can do to minimize our risk of getting the disease and, even if we do get it, to live long and healthy lives with it,” the UN chief said, suggesting, for example, that “anyone who can stand instead of sit, walks a little bit more each day and is generally more active should do so.”
WHO is also marking World Diabetes Day 2015 by announcing that the Organization’s annual World Health Day, which recognizes its birthday on 7 April, will focus on the issue of diabetes.
“World Health Day will provide an important platform for promoting efforts to prevent diabetes and ensure optimal management of the condition for people living with one of the various forms of disease,” the health agency said.
Multiple actions can be taken to reduce the impact of diabetes, through adopting healthy lifestyles, such as partaking in physical activity and healthy diets, to government action on curbing the marketing of unhealthy foods and ensuring health systems provide the required services and care for people living with the disease.
In his message, Ban said the world recently took a major step in adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and incorporating a target to reduce by one third the deaths attributed to non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, by 2030.
“On World Diabetes Day, let us recognize the progress we have made, but let us also acknowledge that it is not yet enough,” he said. “Let us all step up to limit the impact of diabetes.”
In 2012, diabetes was the direct cause of some 1.5 million deaths, with more than 80% of them occurring in low- and middle-income countries. WHO projects that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death by 2030.
There are two main forms of the disease.
People with type 1 diabetes typically make none of their own insulin and therefore require insulin injections for survival.
People with type 2 diabetes, the form that comprises some 90 per cent of all cases, usually produce their own insulin, but not enough or they are unable to use it properly. People with type 2 diabetes are typically overweight and sedentary.
“But, properly treated, the impact of diabetes can be minimised,” according to WHO.
On 20 December 2006, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution recognizes diabetes as a chronic, debilitating and costly disease associated with major complications that pose severe risks for families, countries and the entire world, and designated 14 November as a UN day to be observed every year beginning in 2007.
Started by WHO and the International Diabetes Federation, the Day is celebrated on 14 November to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, was instrumental in the discovery of insulin in 1922, a life-saving treatment for diabetes patients. (Source: UN).