Over 200 of the world’s most famous landmarks, including New York’s Empire State Building and the Sydney Opera House, are lit up in blue today to mark the first United Nations World Diabetes Day which aims to raise awareness about this growing epidemic.
World Diabetes Day was introduced in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) in response to concern over the escalating incidence of the disease, which occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.
Recognizing the chronic, debilitating and costly nature of the disease, which affects over 246 million people around the world, the UN made World Diabetes Day an official UN day last year, increasing the visibility of diabetes as an important global public health problem requiring urgent attention.
The Empire State Building, one of New York’s most famous landmarks, was the first building to join the World Diabetes Day campaign and agree to light up in blue, which is the colour of the diabetes circle – the global symbol for the disease.
Other famous landmarks that have joined the campaign include the Sydney Opera House, the London Eye, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Tokyo Tower and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.
The Day is celebrated each year on 14 November to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, first conceived the idea which led to the discovery of insulin in 1922.
The theme of this year’s Day is diabetes in children and adolescents, chosen by the International Diabetes Federation and WHO to draw attention to the fact that diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood.
About 70,000 children under the age of 15 are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year, according to International Diabetes Federation estimates.
The Federation also points out that diabetes claims as many lives each year as HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. Yet it receives a fraction of the funding required to tackle it. Those are just two of the reasons why the disease needs increased and urgent attention from health officials and policymakers alike.