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World Health Day: Focus on Diabetes

A whole day dedicated to health, with a particular focus on the prevention, treatment and awareness of diabetes, a complex chronic disease which in many cases can be prevented by following simple guidelines.

“Beat diabetes” is the slogan which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has chosen for World Health Day on 7 April 2016. The number of people suffering from diabetes around the world shows the epidemic scale of the problem which is continuing to spread at an alarming rate, affecting increasing numbers even in low and medium income countries. According to WHO estimates, this illness, where the levels of glucose in the blood increase because the body is not able to produce insulin (type 1 diabetes) or use it effectively (type 2 diabetes), led to 1.5 million deaths in 2012 alone, and will become the seventh most common cause of death by 2030. However, many cases of type 2 diabetes, which represent 90% of the total, could be prevented or at least delayed by lifestyles involving a healthy diet and regular physical exercise, keeping body weight down and avoiding tobacco consumption.

Three goals to achieve
The experts from the WHO have identified three objectives for world health day focused on diabetes: expand prevention, strengthen treatment and care, and improve the accuracy of diagnoses.
Undoubtedly, the first necessary step involves raising people’s awareness of the problem by informing them of the serious consequences it has on health, especially in the poorest countries.
This is an objective whole-heartedly shared by BCFN which is promoting the spread of healthy and sustainable diets.
The experts who contributed to the latest volume of Eating Planet calculated that in the USA, over 30% of people are obese or overweight, while Mexico is recording levels of obesity equal to 70% of the population. Even India, often seen as the symbol of hunger in the world, has an adult obesity rate of 17%. Obesity is a significant cause of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as type 2 diabetes. Between now and 2030, these illnesses will have a global cost of 30,000 billion dollars.
Agricultural models also have an impact on diseases like diabetes: finding a better balance in the food system by focusing on the right proportions of starchy foods, vegetables and greenery, not only protects the environment and reduces poverty, but is essential for promoting better diets and public health.


Among the key initiatives of this edition of world health day is the launch of the first global report on diabetes. This document will describe the significance and the consequences of the disease and will promote improved health systems which can ensure better monitoring, and more effective prevention and management of a chronic illness affecting around 1 in every 10 adults around the world.

A few clear and direct messages
Words and figures are important, but on their own they are not enough to put theories and good intentions into practice. As the WHO highlights, it is essential to have targeted, effective and feasible actions which can be implemented directly among people who are already suffering from diabetes or those who are at risk of developing the disease.
The experts have clearly defined their ideas and have identified four “key messages” which must not be overlooked.
  • Diabetes is an epidemic which is increasing continuously and rapidly, paradoxically among those people with limited opportunities and money who are less able to follow healthy diets.
  • A large proportion of cases of diabetes could be prevented with a healthy lifestyle, which must be taught and supported by social policies.
  • Diabetes is a treatable illness, which can be kept at bay and managed in order to avoid more serious complications. However, to effectively respond to the increase in cases, it is essential to have better diagnoses, education and training programmes to allow people to manage the illness themselves and a treatment which really is available for all.
  • The WHO highlights the fact that preventing and treating diabetes is fundamental for achieving the third sustainable development goal, as set out in the United Nations sustainable development agenda approved in 2015: By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases. Reaching this objective requires everybody’s support, from governments to the media and stakeholders in the agro-food supply chain without forgetting the contribution of individuals.
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