Getting the measure of diabetes

Diabetes has become one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Over 150 million adults are affected worldwide, with the number expected to double in the next 25 years.

In 2002, the cost of diabetes in the United States was an estimated $92 billion in medical expenditures and $40 billion in lost productivity, according to the American Diabetes Federation.
According to projections by the International Diabetes Federation, countries will be spending 7-13% of their healthcare budgets on diabetes care by the year 2025. A report in Ireland already puts it at 10% of health costs.Click here for larger graph.Diabetes attacks the organs and nervous system. It is not curable, but much of the burden could be reduced with better prevention, both of onset and later complications. There is convincing evidence that lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, through diet and increased physical activity, can prevent diabetes in individuals considered to be at risk. As diabetes is driven largely by weight and obesity, this covers a large number of people. It is well established that better glycaemia control also reduces organ damage and vascular complications.The evidence suggests that these measures can reduce costs within a year or two, yet they are massively under-utilised. Take annual eye exams. These are one of the most simple and universally accepted care practices for diabetics to prevent complications and blindness. Yet on average only slightly more than half of diabetic patients receive annual eye exams in those OECD countries that report such data. Even in the UK, the best-performing country, almost a sixth of people with diabetes do not undergo this simple and beneficial test. Another way to improve performance is via public information, since unlike, say, cardiovascular problems or cancer, many patients report they were unaware of the seriousness of diabetes until they developed it.©OECD Observer No 267 May-June 2008

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