The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is on a mission to stop the epidemic of diabetes that is currently affecting people around the globe – including children and adolescents – at alarming rates. In their second year of a two-year campaign against diabetes in children and adolescents, IDF stresses the importance of this message and the vulnerability of the group they are working so hard to safeguard.
“We need to communicate to those in a position to make improvements to the living environment so that they can reduce diabetes in future generations,” Phil Riley, World Diabetes Day director for the IDF said. “Any investment will pay dividends in good health and, subsequently, economic growth.”
The United Nations (UN) adopted World Diabetes Day as a UN World Day in 2007. Although the day has been commemorated by IDF and the World Health Organization since 1991, this adoption catapulted the campaign to a global scale previously unmatched.
“This was a tremendous achievement and gives us a key to unlock doors and a way to involve more people than ever before,” Riley said. “The level of participation in World Diabetes Day last year was tremendous and we expect even more involvement this year.”
The campaign has and will continue to raise awareness of the rising prevalence of both type 1 and 2 diabetes in children and adolescents,” Riley said adding that early diagnosis and education are crucial in reducing complications and saving lives.
Currently, more than 200 children a day develop type 1 diabetes. Given that access to appropriate health care is scarce in many developing nations, IDF created the Life for a Child Program. To date the program has helped 1000 children and the aim of the IDF is to reach 500 more before this campaign ends.
“There is a lot. . . that we can do to prevent type 2 diabetes, and for orthotic and prosthetic practitioners, there is a lot that can be done to prevent the complications of the disease,” Riley said. “I appreciate the importance of education and early intervention if problems arise.”
Given the value placed on education and prevention, IDF has determined that the campaign for 2009-2013 will focus on diabetes education and prevention. Among their aims: improve the quality of education worldwide; increase the number of trained professionals in diabetes education; and establish a team-based approach to diabetes management, Riley explained.
“The world needs to find long-term solutions,” Riley said. “We know what needs to be done. We just need to find the will and the resources to do it. Our generation owes it to future generations to tackle the diabetes pandemic and secure a healthier future for the world’s children.”
In order to tackle this disease, which kills more people each year than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined, first people need recognize the misunderstandings of the disease.
Riley said that one of the prevailing confusions about diabetes is that it is considered a disease of the elderly, which it is not.
“Diabetes is in fact ‘getting younger’. Increasingly, type 2 diabetes affects people of working age, particularly in developing countries,” Riley explained. “Type 1 diabetes in children is increasing at a rate of 3% per year. This figure increased to 5% among children of pre-school age.”
Additionally, children and adolescents are now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which, Riley explains, was unheard of previously.
Do your part
Getting involved in World Diabetes Day does not necessarily involve a lot of work or effort. It all depends on how much you or your business wishes to contribute. Riley suggested some small commitments that can mean all the difference in the future of the diabetes epidemic.
“We have several calls to action that can help bring diabetes to light,” he said. “We have a virtual candle that you can light to show your support. A banner version of this virtual light can be shared via your organization’s Web site.”
For those with more time to commit, he encourages finding a local monument to light up in blue to mark the day or drive local media of these activities. Organize a walk or bike ride or form a human circle, the global symbol for diabetes, in commemoration of the day.
“We are involved in a war on the disease and to tackle it we will need commitment and investment on a level that we have not seen for the non-communicable diseases,” Riley told O&P Business News. “All diabetes stakeholders need to join in so that we can continue to build on the gains that we have made in terms of increased awareness and release the resources that will be needed to make the changes we all want to see worldwide.” — By Jennifer Hoydicz
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