IDF Calls on Diabetes Community to Take Control of Their Health

  Trisha Dunning
  Trisha Dunning

Nov. 14 has officially been recognized by the United Nations as
World Diabetes Day since 2007. This year’s World Diabetes
Day slogan, “Let’s Take Control of Diabetes” highlights the need
to slow down, stop and hopefully eventually reverse diabetes trends. Currently,
more than 300 million people worldwide live with diabetes. By 2030, this number
will grow to half a billion, according to the
International Diabetes Federation (IDF).

Risk factors

According to Trisha Dunning, PhD, RN member of the IDF consultative
section on diabetes education, there is more that can be done to prevent type 2
diabetes. Obesity is considered the single best predictor of type 2 diabetes,
she explained to O&P Business News. Other risk factors
associated with diabetes include, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure
and smoking. According to Dunning, these factors can lead to cardiovascular
disease, which is considered a consequence of diabetes. She noted that type 2
diabetes is often diagnosed when a person has a heart attack or stroke.

“The increased diagnosis of type 2 diabetes among young people is
especially alarming because they are likely to develop complications at a
younger age. In fact, that is already occurring,” Dunning said. “At
the same time, we have an aging population, many of whom have diabetes and are
likely to need supported care.”

In 2004, heart disease was noted on 68% of diabetes-related death
certificates among people aged 65 years or older. Adults with diabetes have
heart disease death rates about two to four times higher than adults without
diabetes. The risk of stroke is two to four times higher among people with
diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Global health priority

“The diabetes prevalence figures are alarming,” Dunning said.
“Diabetes is a global problem and most countries have a major focus on
diabetes prevention programs. Many countries have listed diabetes as a health
priority, which means it will be addressed at a high level.”

More than 200 member associations in 160 countries will host activities before, during and after World Diabetes Day.
More than 200 member associations
in 160 countries will host activities before, during and after World Diabetes
Images: International Diabetes

Diabetes awareness and prevention is beginning to grow support from
government and policymakers.

“Awareness for diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
is growing and the world is finally starting to take notice,” Jean Claude
Mbanya, president of IDF, said. “This recognition was confirmed on May 13
when the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 64/265, stating that
it decided to convene a high-level meeting of the General Assembly in September
2011 with the participation of heads of state and government. This meeting will
discuss the prevention and control of NCDs. This is the start of a global shift
on the focus of diabetes and other NCDs.”


According to Dunning, individuals can reduce their risks of diabetes by:

  • knowing their own risks of developing diabetes;
  • eating a healthy balanced diet with low levels of saturated fat and
  • reducing their alcohol intake;
  • remaining physically active;
  • managing their stress levels; and
  • having regular checks performed by their doctor.

“If you have diabetes, enjoy an active life and prevent
complications,” Mbanya advised. “If you do not have diabetes, know
the warning signs. If you think you may have diabetes, get tested. Many people
do not know the warning signs of diabetes.”

World Diabetes Day activities include radio and television programs, sports events and free screenings for diabetes.
World Diabetes Day activities
include radio and television programs, sports events and free screenings for

According to Mbanya, warning signs for diabetes include: frequent
urination, excessive thirst, increased hunger, weight loss, tiredness, lack of
interest and concentration, vomiting and stomach pain (often mistaken as the
flu), a tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet, blurred vision,
frequent infections and slow-healing wounds.


Taking a more broad approach to prevention, many fast food chains are
trying to reduce the fat and salt content of their foods. Dunning speculated
that this reduction was a result of community pressure from obesity programs.
Although fast food chains have added healthier options to their menus, soft
drinks and sweets are still readily available. Many fast foods and sweets are
cheaper than fruits, vegetables and other healthier options, according to

Implementing healthy diet strategies in school may help prevent obesity,
one of the leading risk factors that lead to type 2 diabetes. According to the
ADA, 23.5 million people aged 20 years or older have diabetes.

“There are many school programs that involve children in growing
and using their own fruit and vegetables, which is an important teaching
strategy,” Dunning explained. “Children learn about their health and


Mbanya believes a key to diabetes awareness is taking control. He
recommended individuals or groups help raise diabetes awareness by getting
involved in activities in the days leading up to World Diabetes Day and on Nov.
14. Individuals can plan and/or take part in group walks, runs and exercise

“But it is important that people raise awareness about diabetes
year-round, which can be done by wearing the blue circle pin,” Mbanya
said. “The blue circle is the universal symbol for diabetes. We want to
encourage everyone to use the symbol for diabetes as a reference to diabetes
and the millions of people affected by the disease. Just like the red ribbon
has given so much prominence to HIV/AIDS, we want to see the same awareness of
diabetes by establishing the blue circle globally.”

Campaign message

Mbanya explained that the focus of IDF’s campaign will be on
raising awareness of diabetes and disseminating tools for the prevention of

A themed campaign to promote diabetes prevention and education runs throughout the year.
A themed campaign to promote
diabetes prevention and education runs throughout the year.

“For people with diabetes, the focus will be on disseminating tools
to improve knowledge of diabetes in order to better understand the condition
and prevent complications,” Mbanya said. “For governments and
policy-makers, efforts will focus on advocacy aimed at communicating the
cost-effective implications of diabetes prevention strategies and promoting
diabetes education as a core component of diabetes management and
treatment.” — by Anthony Calabro

For more information:

  • American Diabetes Association. Diabetes statistics. Available at: Accessed:
    Oct. 6, 2010.


Patients need to be aware of the risks. If you are born in the United
States today, your risk of developing diabetes in your lifetime is 33%. That is
a staggering statistic. If you have a family history of diabetes and/or you are
overweight, you will be at higher risk. The public needs to become more aware
of these risks.

The incredibly high instances of obesity are obviously contributing to
the epidemic. I think there a number of young people that are completely
unaware of how many calories they consume on a regular basis. I had a patient
the other day who is a 24-year old, recently diagnosed type 2 diabetic. He
drinks 72 oz. of soda a day and has been doing so for the last 5 years. A 20
oz. regular bottle of soda averages about 240 calories. You do not get full
drinking soda and it is not food, so how could it possibly hurt you?

Another problem is fast food. Fast food is poison and it needs to be
regarded the same way we now regard cigarette smoking. The problem is it tastes
good and it is cheap. It is fine to eat this kind of food once a month but
there are people who are eating this type of food twice a day.

Unfortunately, the data does not look promising. The incidence of
obesity and diabetes are going up. From my perspective, we as physicians are
overwhelmed with patients who are young, type 2 diabetics.

If a patient is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and they lose 8% of their
body weight early in the course of their disease, they can often put their
diabetes into remission. Most patients are told that they need to lose weight,
but they will probably end up on insulin and that their diabetes will never go
away. The reality is that is not so. It is one thing to tell someone who is
obese or overweight to lose weight — odds are they have been hearing that
for a long time — but it is another thing to tell them, if you lose a
certain amount of weight, you have a high probability of putting your diabetes
into remission. That is the incentive.

— Mark H. Schutta, MD
Medical director,
Penn Rodebaugh Diabetes Center, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine

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