Diabetes cases in developing world could double in 30 years, WHO warns

14 November 2003

The number of diabetes cases across the developing world could more than double over the next 30 years, but tough action would dramatically slow that increase, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) warned today.

In a statement from its Geneva headquarters to mark World Diabetes Day, WHO said diabetes is one of several diseases increasingly striking poorer countries thanks to changes in peoples’ lifestyles and an ageing population.

WHO has estimated that the number of diabetes cases in developing nations will rise from 115 million in 2000 to a forecast of 284 million in 2030.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, Dr. Catherine Le Galès-Camus, said the good news is that much of the projected increase is preventable through attention to diet and physical exercise. WHO is developing a Global Strategy on Diet and Physical Activity to help combat diseases linked to unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.

“All over the world, peoples’ lifestyles are changing. We are less active than our parents and grandparents, and we eat foods with higher concentrations of sugars and fats, often with the result that we are putting on weight, and increasing the risk of diabetes,” Dr. Le Galès-Camus said.

WHO Director of Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Dr. Rafael Bengoa, said the organization was working with countries to ensure that there is a minimum of health care for diabetes sufferers in even the poorest areas.

WHO also said that, with the help of the International Diabetes Federation, it was making a special focus on reducing the impact of diabetes among low- and middle-income communities. Diabetes is responsible for one in 20 deaths worldwide.

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