Diabetes is no longer an epidemic that can be ignored. Each new edition of the Diabetes Atlas, strengthened by the latest prevalence studies, confirms the fact that diabetes is increasing - and increasing rapidly - in every part of the world. At the same time, there is now good evidence showing that type 2 diabetes can be prevented in many cases, and that there are cost-effective measures for preventing diabetic complications.
The third edition of the Diabetes Atlas firmly confounds what many have believed for so long. Once thought of as a disease of affluent countries, type 2 diabetes is now a growing burden on developing economies. More than 80% of the 246 million people with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries, where health resources are needed to combat both contagious and chronic diseases. Once thought of as a disease of the elderly, people in younger age groups now form the bulk of those with diabetes. Some 46% of adults with diabetes are in the 40–59 age group. Once thought of ‘as a touch of sugar’, studies show that diabetes at any age, if not properly managed, will lead to serious outcomes, and, in some cases, death. It is estimated that 3.8 million men and women will die from diabetes in 2007, more than 6% of total world mortality.
If left unchecked, the number of people with diabetes will reach 380 million in less than 20 years. This is more than the current adult population of the African Region or of the North American Region. This will mean that 1 out of 14 adults worldwide will have diabetes in the year 2025. The loss of earnings and lives because of diabetes will be hard to bear.
This edition of the Diabetes Atlas brings us face to face with these issues and challenges. It is now up to us to take up the challenge and find cost-effective ways to tackle one of the largest health problems we now face. We must unite – governments, organizations, individuals – to prevent diabetes, to improve diabetes care for the millions affected and to, ultimately, find a cure.
I would like to express my appreciation and thanks to the many colleagues around the world whose invaluable contribution has made this edition of the Diabetes Atlas possible. I would also like thank our sponsoring partners who have given their support in so many ways. The Diabetes Atlas will be a significant resource for all of us who are working to improve the lives of millions touched by diabetes.
Professor Martin Silink
2006 - 2009