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First United Nations World Diabetes Day Unites Global Diabetes Community to Fight the Epidemic

NEW YORK, November 14 /PRNewswire/ -- On the first United Nations World Diabetes Day, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) calls on governments to develop national policies for the prevention, care and treatment of diabetes and calls on donors worldwide to consider the need for a diabetes global fund to tackle the growing diabetes epidemic.

Speaking at the World Diabetes Day press conference, Dr Martin Silink, President of the International Diabetes Federation, explained that policy change and increased funding will be required to curb the growth of diabetes. "Diabetes is now seen as a serious threat to global health. It is one of the most devastating epidemics the world has seen," said Dr Silink, "yet diabetes funding is dismally insufficient in comparison to other diseases."

November 14 marks the first observance of the existing World Diabetes Day by the United Nations. At the end of last year, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 61/225. The resolution establishes November 14 as an officially observed UN world day from this year, making diabetes only the second disease after HIV/AIDS to have an official UN day.

The World Diabetes Day resolution describes diabetes as "a threat to families, member states and the entire world." For the first time a non-infectious disease is seen as posing as serious a threat to global health as the infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. IDF and WHO figures indicate that over 246 million people now have diabetes worldwide. This number is set to reach 380 million by 2025 if significant action is not taken.(i)

Speaking at today's press conference held in New York City to mark the first United Nations World Diabetes Day, IDF President-Elect Jean-Claude Mbanya explained why widespread apathy in the face of the growing diabetes threat has contributed to the diabetes epidemic: "Diabetes was long dismissed as 'nothing serious' a 'touch of sugar', or a 'disease of the elderly and the rich'. For years the growing threat of diabetes went largely ignored. Successive generations failed to act decisively. Diabetes slipped in under the radar unnoticed to become a global health catastrophe." According to Dr Mbanya, the time is right to take action to address the diabetes threat: "The political momentum generated by the World Diabetes Day Resolution, the coordinated advocacy of a strong diabetes community and the availability of cheap medication have created the opportunity for governments to implement policies to prevent diabetes and its complications."

Diabetes affects 6% of the global adult population. It is a leading cause of blindness, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and amputation. Every year, over 3.8 million deaths are due to diabetes, making diabetes a more significant global killer than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. Every 10 seconds a person dies from diabetes-related causes. In that same 10 seconds, two people develop the disease.

Diabetes is an expensive condition, with wide-ranging costs for individuals, for families and for healthcare systems. It threatens to undermine economic growth, particularly in developing countries, which currently shoulder most of the diabetes burden.

Current spending to treat and prevent diabetes is estimated at more than US$232 billion each year. This will balloon to more than US$302 billion each year within 20 years. More than 80% of this investment is made in the world's most developed countries. The majority of all people with diabetes (70% of the total), however, are found in the developing countries.

Despite the size and seriousness of the diabetes epidemic, it has not attracted significant funding from donors. Overseas Development Aid to the health sector, for example, reached US$2.9 billion in 2002. Most of that US$2.9 billion went to support infectious diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS. Of the global total, only 0.1% was available to fund all non-communicable chronic diseases including diabetes.

While the passage of the Resolution has created great political momentum, significant financial resources will be required to address the diabetes epidemic meaningfully. Recognizing this need, the International Diabetes Federation is exploring the possibility of establishing a global financing facility for diabetes, based on an analysis of existing global health financing mechanisms and consultations with a diverse group of stakeholders.

Wrapping up the press conference, Dr Silink emphasized that: "A fully implemented national plan to treat and prevent diabetes should be a right for everyone. It is time," continued the IDF President "to make a significant difference for the 246 million people living with diabetes and to introduce effective strategies for the prevention of diabetes itself."

Broadcast videos are available at:

Note to Editors

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is an umbrella organization of over 200 member associations in more than 160 countries, representing almost 250 million people with diabetes, their families, and their healthcare providers. The mission of the IDF is to promote diabetes care, prevention and a cure worldwide. Its main activities include education for people with diabetes and healthcare professionals, public awareness campaigns and the promotion and exchange of information. IDF is a non-governmental organization in official relations with WHO and associated to the United Nations' Department of Public Information. For more information, please visit

Introduced by IDF and the World Health Organization in 1991, World Diabetes Day has been celebrated by diabetes representative organizations worldwide ever since. The date of 14 November was chosen because it marks the birthday of Frederick Banting, who, along with Charles Best, is credited with the discovery of insulin. UN Resolution 61/225 establishes November 14 as a United Nations observed day from 2007. Visit for further information about the campaign and for a full list of landmarks that will light up.


(i) Diabetes Atlas, 3rd ed. International Diabetes Federation, 2006;1: 19

SOURCE International Diabetes Federation (IDF)
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