The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday called for global action to halt rise in and improve care for people with diabetes.
This is contained in a report on diabetes launched for the first time by the WHO, ahead of the World Health Day, which will be observed on Thursday.
The organisation called for measures including expanding health-promoting environments to reduce diabetes risk factors, and physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.
It also called member states to strengthen national capacities to help people with diabetes receive the treatment and care that they would need to manage their conditions.
WHO added that the number of people living with diabetes had almost quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults, with most living in developing countries.
It said that factors driving this dramatic rise include overweight and obesity.
Key findings from the “Global report on diabetes” are that number of people living with diabetes and its prevalence are growing in all regions of the world.
It showed that in 2014, 422 million adults or 8.5 per cent of the population had diabetes, compared with 108 million or 4.7 per cent in 1980.
It further showed that the epidemic of diabetes had major health and socio-economic impacts, especially in developing countries.
It said in 2014, more than one in three adults age over 18 years, were overweight and more than one in 10 were obese.
It warned that the complications of diabetes could lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation.
For example, it added that rates of lower limb amputation were 10 to 20 times higher for people with diabetes.
WHO added that diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012.
It said that higher-than-optimal blood glucose caused an additional 2.2 million deaths by increasing the risks of cardiovascular and other diseases.
The report also showed that many of these deaths occur prematurely.
The deaths are mostly before the age of 70 and are largely preventable through adoption of policies to create supportive environments for healthy lifestyles and better detection and treatment of the disease.
It called for good management including use of a small set of generic medicines; interventions to promote healthy lifestyles; patient education to facilitate self-care.
It also called for regular screening for early detection and treatment of complications.
It further added that global efforts were underway to make medicines, including for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) readily available and affordable.
Reacting to the report in a statement, Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General said :”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.
“Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes.”
Also, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) and Mental Health, Dr Oleg Chestnov, said that many cases of diabetes could be prevented.
Chestnov said that measures existed to detect and manage the condition, improving the odds that people with diabetes live long and healthy lives.
She said that change greatly depended on governments doing more by implementing global commitments to address diabetes and other NCDs.
Among the measures she mentioned are meeting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), target three and four, which calls for reducing premature death from NCDs, including diabetes by 30 per cent by 2030.
Also, Dr Etienne Krug, the Director of WHO’s Department for Management of NCDs, said that around 100 years after the insulin hormone was discovered, the report shows the availability of essential diabetes medicines and technologies.
Krug said that it included insulin, needed for treatment and are generally available in only one in three of the world’s poorest countries.
“Access to insulin is a matter of life or death for many people with diabetes. Improving access to insulin and NCD medicines in general should be a priority,” Krug said.
The WHO added that commitment from world leaders, including the SDGs, the 2011 “UN Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Non Communicable Diseases.
It said that it was aimed at improving affordability and availability of essential drugs for people living with diabetes.
The UN organisation said that there were three main forms of diabetes: Type one and Type two and gestational diabetes.
The cause of Type One diabetes, it added, “is unknown and people living with it require daily insulin administration for survival.’’
“While Type two accounts for the vast majority of people living with diabetes globally, and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity.’’
It said that once seen only in adults, type two diabetes “is now increasingly occurring in children and young people.’’
While Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that occurs in pregnancy and carries long-term risk of type two diabetes.
Gestational diabetes, it says is present when blood glucose values are above normal but still below those diagnostic of diabetes.