WHO calls for global action on diabetes

The number of adults living with diabetes worldwide has almost quadrupled since 1980, to 422 million, according to the first WHO Global report on diabetes, released to coincide with World Health Day 2016. The report shows that the prevalence of diabetes has also risen in the WHO European Region since 1980, with an estimated 64 million people now living with the disease. The growing diabetes epidemic is strongly associated with increasing trends in overweight and obesity, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and socioeconomic disadvantage.

"The WHO European Region may not have the highest rates of diabetes in the world, but some countries in the Region have prevalence rates of up to 14%," said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, on World Health Day. "The countries in this Region have a huge burden of diabetes, and their health systems often struggle to control the disease and manage its complications. The surge in diabetes will continue unless there is a concerted, whole-of-society effort to stop it."

Steps to prevent diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease, and simple changes to one's lifestyle can be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of the disease and its complications, which can include cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure and loss of limbs. Diabetes can even lead to loss of life. To help prevent type 2 diabetes, people of all ages should:

  • achieve and maintain a healthy body weight;
  • be physically active – at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days, with more activity required for weight control; 
  • eat a healthy diet of 3-5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day and reduce intake of sugar and saturated fats; and
  • avoid tobacco use – smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Adults with diabetes have rates of cardiovascular disease that are two to three times higher than those of adults without diabetes.

Regional and global commitments have been made to address diabetes, including Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.4, which calls for reducing premature death from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, by 30% by 2030.