Today is the day. World Diabetes Day, that is, a “celebration” held every year on Nov. 14, organized by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote global awareness of the diabetes world. Nov. 14 apparently “commemorates the birthday of Frederick Banting, who, along with Charles Best, is credited with the discovery of insulin in 1921.”
According to the authorities, diabetes is on the rise in almost every country of the world. The current tally of people with diabetes stands at more than 230 million(!) That’s more than 75% of the total population of the United States (which just hit 300 million last month, btw). And may I remind you that there are more people with diabetes in this country than there are people in the Netherlands? Yup, enough of us to fill an entire European country, which I (tongue-in-cheek) once dubbed Diabetica.
But all chuckles aside, keep in mind that diabetes is now one of the world’s biggest killers, claiming 3.2 million lives every year. Every 10 seconds a person dies as a consequence of the disease. A sobering thought — and one that may be hard for us PWDs living in relative comfort in developed nations to wrap our minds around.
But let’s try for a moment: imagine that you not only had no healthcare coverage (which some of you may not), but there wasn’t even anyone qualified to treat your diabetes within hundreds of miles of your home. You had no transportation or money travel to the next hospital, and even if you could, there’d only be a few barely-trained, overwhelmed, and under-equipped people there struggling to help at least the sickest of the sick. You’d have no access to your own glucose meter, let alone the expensive test strips required, or any oral or other medications. In short, you’d be up Shit Creek. Which is exactly where hundreds of thousands of people with diabetes in developing nations find themselves today.
Thus this year’s theme, Diabetes in the Disadvantaged and Vulnerable. Today’s kickoff of this year-long campaign also marks the end of the first phase of the Joint IDF-WHO Diabetes Action Now awareness project, which aims to help low- and middle-income communities, particularly in developing countries. One of the very concrete strategies is to help get insulin and diabetes supplies shipped out to the people who need them in countries like Cameroon, Uruguay, and India, to name a few. (Check out the list of 190 member organizations around the world.)
The IDF is also calling on the global diabetes community (THAT MEANS US!) to rally behind the campaign for a United Nations Resolution on diabetes by signing an online petition that appears at www.unitefordiabetes.org. And they’re encouraging us to download the virtual version of the new Blue Circle symbolizing diabetes and pass it on. So here it is, my friends.
Finally, have a good look at the World Diabetes Day logo above. Yes, it is based on the well-known Chinese symbol of Yin and Yang — meant to remind us of BALANCE. “A careful balance of medication, diet and physical activity is essential to diabetes management, as is cooperation between people with diabetes, their friends and families, healthcare professionals, and healthcare authorities.” A gentle reminder that in medicine as in life, balance is everything. Lucky for us Western Industrialized diabetics, our biggest challenge is simply trying to strike it.