Published on 7 April 2016

The World Health Organization has called for improved care for people with diabetes and step up prevention and treatment after a new report revealed that 422 million adults are now living with the condition worldwide.

Health problems including being overweight and obesity were highlighted as the main factors in the rise of people with type 2 diabetes, with most cases of the condition found among people living in developing countries.

The World Health Organization’s first Global report on diabetes was published ahead of this year’s World Health Day (on 7th April).

The WHO's Global diabetes report aims to encourage people to eat healthily and be physically active

The 422 million adults diagnosed with diabetes in 2014 is equal to 8.5% of the world’s population, meaning the figure has almost quadrupled when compared with 108 million (4.7%) in 1980.

According to figures for 2014, more than one in three adults aged over 18 years were overweight and more than one in 10 were obese.

The report states that while type 1 diabetes “cannot be prevented with current knowledge”, there are “effective approaches that are available to prevent type 2 diabetes and to prevent the complications and premature death that can result from all types of diabetes”.

The new report calls on governments around the world to ensure that people are able to make healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose, treat and care for people with type 2 diabetes. The report aims to encourage people to eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain.  

Dr Margaret Chan, 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.”

Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases) and Mental Health, added: “Many cases of diabetes can be prevented, and measures exist to detect and manage the condition, improving the odds that people with diabetes live long and healthy lives. But change greatly depends on governments doing more, including by implementing global commitments to address diabetes and other NCDs.”

Dr Etienne Krug, Director of WHO’s Department for the Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, said: “Around 100 years after the insulin hormone was discovered, the Global report on diabetes shows that essential diabetes medicines and technologies, including insulin, needed for treatment 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 non-communicable diseases medicines in general should be a priority.”

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