Today, the International Diabetes Federation released the latest edition of its Diabetes Atlas, which has thrown up some deeply troubling statistics about the disease in Australia and abroad. Here are five facts that explain why the disease has the potential to bankrupt Australia's health system and lead to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.
Diabetes picture from Shutterstock
Diabetes is a serious issue that can cause everything from sleep apnea to blindness and cardiovascular disease. According to the International Diabetes Federation, diabetes is on course to become the biggest public health problem and epidemic in human history. The predominant form is Type 2 diabetes (about 85 per cent) which can be caused by a combination of poor lifestyle choices and genetic factors.
It's worse than previously thought
In the 1990s, scientists predicted that the number of diabeties sufferers would reach 100 million by 2013. Instead, the number is almost three times worse, with the current total sitting in the region 382 million. This does not include an estimated 175 million cases that remain undiagnosed. In Australia there are currently 1.7 million people suffering from diabeties, with an additional 1.7 million classed as "high risk" of contracting the disease in the near future.
It's not getting any better
People with the disease is now forecast to reach 592 million by 2035 — that's 10 per cent of the world's entire population. In Australia, the total is expected to hit 2.3 million over the same time period.
This year, there have been 5.1 million deaths attributed to diabetes around the world, which works out to one person dying every six seconds. In Australia, the total death-count in 2013 is expected to top 9,500. Contrary to popular belief, it's not just old people at risk either — 44 per cent of diabetes-related deaths in Australia this year occurred in people under the age of 60. It is even being seen in Australian children.
Australia is in one of the worst-hit regions
The Western Pacific, which includes Australia, has 138 million diabetes sufferers which is the highest number of people with the disease in the world. On the plus side (for Australians) the bulk of these people live in China and India. Within Australia, Aboriginals and Torres Strait islanders have a disproportionate share of the burden — up to 32 per cent suffer from the disease, with women and rural communities being the most vulnerable.
It has the potential to bankrupt health systems the world over
The total cost for diabetes treatment and care worldwide is expected to exceed US$548 billion in 2013. $10.7 billion was spent in Australia alone. These costs do not include lost workplace productivity due to premature ill health.
So can anything be done? The Australian Government has announced its intention to consider a national diabetes strategy proposed by Diabetes Australia to help combat the problem.
"We're hopeful there will be much more action in Australia in terms of prevention of diabetes," World Diabetes Congress chairman Professor Paul Zimmet said. "It's certainly the biggest public health priority that this nation faces along with obesity. Unless we do something about it, it's going to have very severe effects on the national economy."
The Diabetes Atlas (Sixth Edition) [International Diabetes Federation]