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Protect tomorrow by investing in diabetes education today

Published: 14.11.2022
Professor Andrew Boulton President
The International Diabetes Federation
Protect tomorrow by investing in diabetes education today, Professor Andrew Boulton

World Diabetes Day 2022

Diabetes awareness month takes place every year in November, with the 14th recognised as World Diabetes Day. First established by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization in 1991, World Diabetes Day has been recognised as an official UN World Health Day since 2006. Awareness activities on and around the day help focus attention on what is required to address the growing diabetes pandemic and ensure that people living with diabetes receive the care they need to manage their condition successfully to avoid or delay the associated debilitating and life-threatening complications.

To mark the occasion this year, IDF is focussing the World Diabetes Day campaign on diabetes education and is calling on governments to increase investment to provide better support to healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes.

According to the latest IDF research, diabetes now affects more than half a billion people (537 million) worldwide. Globally, around half of this number are not yet diagnosed, placing them at higher risk of complications such as heart attack, stroke, blindness and nerve damage. Diabetes is a leading cause of global mortality, responsible for an estimated 6.7 million deaths in 2021. The number of people living with the condition is expected to rise to more than 640 million by 2030. In Europe, around 1 in 11 adults (61 million) are living with diabetes and the annual number of premature deaths due to diabetes in the region is over a million per year (1.1 million).

In an effort to help curb the rise of diabetes, the World Health Organization (WHO) have agreed an ambitious set of global diabetes coverage targets, to be achieved by 2030. These targets include identifying and diagnosing four in five of all diabetes cases and ensuring good control of blood sugar and blood pressure. The targets include treating 60% of all people with diabetes over 40 with medication to lower cholesterol and ensuring that all people with type 1 diabetes have access to affordable insulin and blood glucose self-monitoring. This is important because, without access to insulin therapy and all that is required to make it successful, type 1 diabetes is an unnecessary death sentence.

A great deal of work will be required for these targets to be achieved. Diabetes education plays a vital role to ensure early diagnosis and treatment, and support people with diabetes to manage their condition.

Education to support self-care

The rising global prevalence of diabetes is putting additional pressure on healthcare systems. As a result, healthcare professionals have less time available to spend in consultation with people with diabetes in their care. According to IDF research conducted among people living with diabetes and healthcare professionals, people with the condition spend around three hours per year in consultation with a healthcare professional. This means that for 99% of the time, people with diabetes are looking after themselves. Therefore, it is crucial they have ongoing access to diabetes education in order to successfully manage their condition.

Diabetes changes over the life-cycle requiring adjustments. Awareness of what to look out for and what to do are hugely important. Making sure that the multiple decisions that people need to make are well informed requires education based on scientific evidence.

Knowing what to do and when to act can help prevent diabetes complications, providing not only a better quality of life for people living with diabetes, but also benefiting healthcare systems by reducing the high costs associated with treating and managing secondary complications.

Access to education for healthcare professionals

Ongoing diabetes education is also important for healthcare professionals. It is particularly important for primary care physicians, pharmacists and community health workers to have a good knowledge of diabetes to help them identify people at high risk and diagnose the condition early. At diagnosis, they must be equipped to provide the right advice and tools to support ongoing self-care.

Ensuring educational resources and training are available and accessible to healthcare professionals helps them keep their diabetes knowledge up-to-date and make the most of the limited time they have available with their patients.

An ongoing global commitment

IDF is committed to helping achieve the WHO global diabetes coverage targets and ensuring the provision of better diabetes care on a global scale. To help facilitate learning opportunities for both healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes, the IDF School of Diabetes offers free online courses to better understand the condition and support ongoing professional development.

There is still much work to be done, however, which is why IDF is calling on the global diabetes community and members of the public to lobby their governments and health ministers to request further resource be allocated to diabetes education.

According to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, diabetes is now the only major non-communicable disease for which the risk of dying early is continuing to rise. It is a pandemic of increasing magnitude and without additional commitment and investment from international governments it will continue to grow.

Government action needs to be taken now, to increase awareness among populations and improve the training of healthcare professionals to provide the best possible care for people living with diabetes. We need to provide diabetes education today to protect tomorrow.

Submit a letter to your national health minister through IDF’s online tool: