Vienna, 14 November 2014 – As the world rightly copes with infectious diseases such as influenza, malaria and, especially recently, the Ebola virus, World Diabetes Day is a reminder that non-communicable diseases pose an even greater threat to human health.
Diabetes affects more than 350 million people in the world. Many will suffer from its debilitating complications and die prematurely. Cardiovascular disease kills half of all people with diabetes, which is among the leading causes of kidney failure.
Often misunderstood as a disease associated with affluent lifestyles, diabetes is a growing problem in developing countries. Recognizing that non-communicable diseases constitute one of the major challenges for development in the 21st century, the United Nations convened a high-level meeting on the issue in 2011. Governments committed to developing national policies for diabetes prevention, treatment and care. This commitment was reaffirmed two years later at the World Health Assembly, which set a target to stop the rise in obesity and diabetes by 2025. A second high-level United Nations meeting earlier this year recognized a marked increase in the number of countries with policies on non-communicable diseases.
This is welcome progress but governments must step up their response, including by protecting people against risk factors such as unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. Fortunately, there are many cost-effective and feasible ways to address diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. By monitoring blood pressure, improving diet and engaging in exercise, people can significantly cut their risk and manage their symptoms.
This year, World Diabetes Day focuses on healthy eating as an important component of both preventing and treating diabetes. Healthy eating and regular exercise can prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and are important in managing all types of diabetes. I call for governments as well as the private sector and civil society to unite in producing and promoting more food products consistent with a healthy diet that are affordable, accessible and available to all.
A holistic approach to human health and the environment can serve to preserve biodiversity, encourage alternative forms of transportation, and boost the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Let us make World Diabetes Day meaningful by committing to practicing healthy living ourselves and making it possible for others to do the same.