A Global Effort to Curb Growing Diabetes Epidemic
From the World Diabetes Congress, Project HOPE's Akiko Otani reflects on the state of diabetes around the globe.
After traveling for about 24 hours door-to-door, I finally arrive in Dubai. I walked off the airplane and walked into the main arrival terminal and my immediate impression was that I had just landed in New Delhi at the new Indira Ghandi International Airport. Apparently Indians make up nearly 40% of the population here. As I look through the sea of people waiting in the arrival hall with signs of passengers names on them, I finally find a sign with my name on it. We get in the car and make our way towards the hotel. The driver asks me whether I have come for the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) World Diabetes Congress and I said “In fact, yes.” He told me that he is diabetic and he takes medication every day to manage his symptoms. He then asked for advice about what he should and shouldn’t do.
This conversation quickly reminded me of another instance a few months ago where I was sitting in a taxi in the middle of a traffic jam in Delhi, where my driver was telling me about how he suffers from diabetes. He told me that his doctor had prescribed him a bunch of pills to take several times a day, daily however he did not know what they were for. He did not know how to manage his symptoms and asked me very hopefully whether he could drink alcohol. He did not know how he could make simple lifestyle modifications to enhance his quality of life. He went on to tell me about other members of his family who also suffer from diabetes.
It occurred to me then, as it does to me now, that we need to do much more to help millions of people like the taxi drivers I have met in various places of the world who suffer from diabetes. And millions more, we need to prevent from becoming diabetic. As we all know, diabetes is no longer the “rich man’s” disease. According to IDF, 80% of diabetes patients live in the low- to middle-income countries. There are currently 366 million diabetes patients around the world and it is estimated that by 2030, this figure will increase to 552 million (Ibid)! As we move forward, we need to do more globally to help those living with diabetes as well as to prevent the onset of diabetes.
Project HOPE is doing just that through our diabetes programs around the world. With strong support and collaboration from the private sector, we currently have programs in China, India, Mexico and the U.S. In early 2012, we will be expanding our diabetes work to South Africa, not to mention further expanding our work in the countries we are already doing diabetes work in. The common thread through each of our diabetes programs is that we aim to improve the quality of life of people living with diabetes as well as to prevent the onset of diabetes amongst populations most-at-risk of developing diabetes such as school age children. We work at the community level to raise awareness amongst the general public about diabetes but also work with health facilities and health systems to strengthen their capacity to provide quality care for the treatment and management of diabetes symptoms.
Project HOPE’s strength is in recognizing the diversity that may exist when trying to address a particular common need and thus our program activities and educational materials and tools are tailored and adapted or developed for each country and their specific program. I invite any of the readers who are in Dubai for this IDF World Congress to visit our booth at #G40. During this Congress, we will be presenting our work in India on Wednesday, December 7th at 11:00-11:15 a.m. in Sheikh Maktoum C (during the 10:45-12:45 session) and our work in Mexico during the poster presentation session on Thursday December 8th #P-1513 in Hall 4. If you are not at the Congress, please visit www.projecthope.org for more detailed information regarding our programs.
In a world where incidences of NCDs are increasing and that within NCDs, diabetes is a significant cause contributing to the NCD deaths, it is critical that we do more, more effectively and more efficiently in every part of the world. You will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know someone who is affected by diabetes. Diabetes transcends the traditional boundaries of the rich and poor, urban vs. rural, developed vs. less developed. We must all join hands to build upon existing synergies to do more, more effectively and efficiently to help alleviate the burden of the growing epidemic.