Diabetes keeps spreading throughout the Americas, PAHO warns
The number of people with diabetes in the Americas has tripled in three decades, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced Friday in a report released in Washington, DC.
The regional branch of the World Health Organization explained that obesity, poor diets, and lack of physical activity contributed to a three-fold increase in the number of adults living with diabetes in the Americas over the past 30 years.
PAHO’s Panorama of Diabetes in the Americas, released on World Diabetes Day (November 14), urges countries to improve early diagnosis, increase access to quality diabetes management care, and develop strategies to promote healthy lifestyles and nutrition.
World Diabetes Day is commemorated every year on Nov. 14, the birthday of Doctor Frederic Banting, the co-discoverer of insulin.
Although 62 million people have been reported to be living with diabetes in the Americas, the is believed to be much higher since it is estimated that around 40% of people have not been properly diagnosed. At the current pace, the number of people with diabetes in the region is expected to reach 109 million by 2040.
Two-thirds of adults in the Americas are overweight or obese, and only 60% get enough exercise, the report highlighted, with over 30% of young adults considered obese or overweight, almost twice the global average.
These high rates of diabetes highlight the urgent need for countries to focus on prevention and the promotion of healthy lifestyles, said PAHO’s Director of the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, Dr. Anselm Hennis.
At the same time, it is essential to ensure early diagnosis and good disease management, which are fundamental to controlling diabetes and preventing diabetes-related disability and ill health, he added.
Only 12 countries in the region have the six basic technologies needed for diabetes management in public health facilities, including equipment for measuring blood glucose, tests for early diagnosis of complications, and urine test strips for glucose and ketone analysis. It is critical that everyone, everywhere, has access to these basic diagnostic and management tools needed to prevent related disabilities, Dr. Hennis also pointed out.
The report also noted that people with diabetes were at increased risk of severe forms of COVID-19 and death, and urged governments to improve the ability to diagnose diabetes early and prevent its complications, increase the availability of and access to quality diabetes care, including essential medicines such as insulin, glucose monitoring devices and self-management support, and develop healthy lifestyle policies to prevent obesity.
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease, characterized by elevated blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, usually occurring in adults when the body becomes resistant or does not produce enough insulin. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin on its own.
Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the Americas and accounted for over 284,000 deaths in 2019. It is also the second leading cause of disability in the region, only preceded by ischemic heart disease, and the leading cause of blindness in people aged 40 to 74 years, lower limb amputations, and chronic kidney disease. In addition, diabetes triples the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, or cancer, PAHO explained.
PAHO’s Strategic Fund works to strengthen universal access to essential medicines and technologies for the treatment of diabetes in the region, enabling Member States to obtain insulin at low-cost prices. The WHO Global Diabetes Pact also reinforces this commitment and provides a roadmap for countries to address this disease. (Source: PAHO)