Although diabetes is often linked with obesity, it is far from being a rich-world illness. The latest report by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) shows that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing in every country in the world.
The IDF estimates that some 382m people currently have diabetes, with around 80% of these living in low- or middle-income countries. By 2035 the global tally will rise to 592m.
The IDF’s new estimates also show an increasing trend for people to develop diabetes at a young age — a disquieting trend for future generations. The disease is causing an increasing number of premature deaths, despite advances in treatment. In 2013, roughly half of all deaths due to diabetes in adults were in people under the age of 60, and in less-developed regions like sub-Saharan Africa, that proportion climbs to 75%.
Today’s diabetes hotspots include countries in the Middle East, Western Pacific, sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia, where economic development has transformed lifestyles. These rapid transitions are bringing high rates of obesity and diabetes, and many developing countries have inadequate resources to protect their populations. By the end of 2013, diabetes will have caused 5.1m deaths and cost US$548bn in healthcare spending.
In response, the IDF is calling for Increased awareness of the importance of a healthy diet and physical activity is vital, especially for children and adolescents. Environments have to be created that lay the foundations for healthy living, but healthcare professionals also need more training, says the federation. These measures are most urgent in low- and middle-income countries, exactly those that are least ready to confront this huge-scale pandemic.
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