World Health Day focuses on halting the rise in diabetes

The World Health Organization (WHO) is using its World Health Day on 7 April to shine a light on the global diabetes epidemic in a bid to halt the rise in new cases.

Worldwide, there are 350 million people with diabetes, and that number is expected to double in the next 20 years. In 2012, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths. The WHO wants to increase awareness about the rise in diabetes and its staggering burden and consequences. 

There are around 2.6 million people with Type 2 diabetes in England with around 200,000 new diagnoses each year – and most cases are preventable through lifestyle changes.

Bradford is at the forefront of tackling Type 2 diabetes locally with the Bradford Beating Diabetes (BBD) campaign. Run by NHS Bradford City and NHS Bradford Districts clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), the campaign targets people known to be at risk of diabetes and offers them a range of support to help them reduce their risk by living a healthier lifestyle.

People who are identified as being at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes have been referred to an intensive lifestyle change programme (ILCP). The ILCP sessions are informal and friendly but with key messages and support about lifestyle changes including healthy eating and exercise – aimed at preventing and delaying the onset of diabetes.

The BBD campaign has been recognised for its innovation; it is one of seven demonstrator sites for the National NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, which is about to roll out similar support to the rest of the country by 2020.

Type 2 diabetes has no cure and can cause blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke and can lead to premature death. So it’s important that people recognise the signs and know how to lower their risk of developing it.

“Diabetes is on the rise locally as well as nationally and globally - so it is a real health challenge for us,” said Dr Sohail Abbas, one of the clinicians leading the BBD campaign. “The good news is that people can reduce their risk of developing diabetes significantly, or delay its onset for many years. Up to 80% of Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented.

“People often think that diabetes is just something that’s going to happen to them because of a family history of the condition or the fact that they know so many people who have it. This campaign has already shown that diabetes isn’t inevitable if more people knew how simple changes to their diet and lifestyle can reduce their risk.”

Many patients will be able to go away with expert advice to reduce their chance of getting diabetes, while others at higher risk will be offered an ILCP course to support them to lose weight, get more active and eat a healthy diet. The most important thing is that people get tested so that they know their risk and can take action.

If anyone is concerned about diabetes, they should talk to their pharmacist or GP practice for healthy living advice.

On 12 April Bradford will celebrate the work of local healthcare assistants and practice nurses who are at the frontline of the BBD campaign, seeing patients in GP practices and giving them advice and support to reduce their diabetes risk.

The CGGs are giving awards to the practice staff in recognition of their commitment, and also to people who qualified as diabetes champions last autumn.

World Health Day 2016: key messages

WHO is focusing the next World Health Day (7 April) on diabetes, because:

  1. The diabetes epidemic is rapidly increasing in many countries, with the documented increase most dramatic in low- and middle-income countries.
  2. A large proportion of diabetes cases are preventable. Simple lifestyle measures have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Maintaining normal body weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of diabetes.
  3. Diabetes is treatable. Diabetes can be controlled and managed to prevent complications. Increasing access to diagnosis, self-management education and affordable treatment are vital components of the response.
  4. Efforts to prevent and treat diabetes will be important to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goal 3 target of reducing premature mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by one-third by 2030. Many sectors of society have a role to play, including governments, employers, educators, manufacturers, civil society, private sector, the media and individuals themselves.