Calls For More International Diabetes Funding

At a recent international meeting concerning non-communicable diseases, held in Doha, Qatar, professor Martin Slink, the president of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), stressed the importance of more funding for diabetes, as well as other non-communicable diseases. Professor Slink specifically urged that an international effort to fight these diseases be added to the United Nations millennium development goals (MDGs).

Non-communicable diseases are non-infectious diseases, and are generally a result of genetics or lifestyle choices. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer and respiratory disorders, are the leading non-communicable diseases world wide, and especially heart disease and diabetes incidence are on a rapid increase.

The MDGs are a set of eight internationally agreed upon objectives, ratified by 192 nations in total, aimed at counteracting extreme poverty, hunger, and disease, as well as environmental and educational concerns, in the developing world. The goals are meant to be achieved by 2015, though for various reasons (global recession, waffling of many member states to meet promised figures, for instance), this appears very unlikely.

While the eight MDGs are fairly comprehensive, one area in which there is little attention, is non-communicable disease. AIDS and malaria are seen as the two most dangerous and preventable diseases in the developing world, and the MDGs specifically aim to stop, treat, and reverse the spread of these communicable diseases. Unfortunately, poor nutrition and awareness have made diabetes and heart disease leading causes of death in the developing world as well. India and parts of the middle east have the highest rates of these diseases, which are also highly preventable.

Professor Slink gave some specifics at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting in Qatar, reaching out primarily to the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) to head his calls. One statistic he gave is that more than 60% of world mortality results from three non-communicable diseases alone; cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory ailments (such as asthma), and that the majority of these deaths result in “low and middle income countries.”

According to professor Slink, the high incidence of these conditions in poor countries puts strains not just on individual families, but the entire health care system and economy. “The global epidemic of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases is hitting the poorest hardest. Four in five deaths from NCDs now occur in low and middle-income countries. The low-cost solutions to prevent many of these deaths are yet to be implemented. Without decisive action, the NCD burden threatens to undermine the benefits of improving standards of living, education and economic growth in many countries,” says professor Slink.

The meeting being held in Qatar allowed professor Slink to address the tremendous rise in diabetes incidence in the “gulf region” of the middle east. Among the most convincing statistics noted were that five of the top 10 worldwide diabetes incidence rates reside in the gulf. Kuwait (14.4%), Bahrain (15.2%), Qatar (15.2%), Saudi Arabia (15.7%), and United Arab Emirates (19.5%) represent these five countries, and the numbers are only expected to rise.

Professor Slink concluded by noting that UN member states were neglecting a resolution made in 2006, that was to specifically intended to amplify global efforts at battling the diabetes epidemic, and making November 14th “world diabetes day.” The resolution states “diabetes is a chronic, debilitating and costly disease associated with severe complications, which poses severe risks for families, Member States and the entire world and serious challenges to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.” Says professor Slink, “The global diabetes community is waiting for UN Member States to follow through on the promise of the UN Resolution on diabetes.”

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Slink, Martin. McClaughlyn, Kerrita. IDF press release. May 2009.