Diabetes patients at increased risk of severe disease warns UN chief

As the number of people with diabetes surges, many are at “increased risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19,” the UN chief has said.

“Many efforts have been made to prevent and treat diabetes,” but the disease continues to rise rapidly in low and middle income countries, those “least well-equipped with the diagnostics, medicines, and knowledge to provide life-saving treatment,” said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his message for World Diabetes Day, which falls on Nov. 14 annually.

Globally, some 422 million adults are living with diabetes (latest figures from 2014), according to the World Health Organization (WHO), compared to around 108 million in 1980 — rising from 4.7 to 8.5 percent in the adult population.

Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and lower limb amputation, and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional pain to those requiring regular care and treatment who struggle to access therapies for their condition. A healthy diet, physical activity and not smoking can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes, formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes, the UN said.

Next year, WHO is launching the Global Diabetes Compact, “a new initiative that will bring structure and coherence to our complementary efforts to reduce the burden of diabetes,” the UN chief said.

“Let us work together to make sure that, through this ambitious and much-needed collaboration, we will soon be talking about the decline in diabetes as a public health problem,” said the secretary-general.

World Diabetes Day is the primary global awareness campaign focusing on diabetes mellitus and is held on Nov. 14 each year. Led by the International Diabetes Federation, each World Diabetes Day focuses on a theme related to diabetes. The theme for World Diabetes Day 2020 is “The Nurse and Diabetes,” which aims to raise awareness around the crucial role of these health care professionals in supporting people living with diabetes.