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Thursday 24th May 2018

Call for diabetes research

12th May 2008

A new report has called on the governments of developing countries and international donors to take diabetes more seriously, and to invest in research and care.


Four out of five patients with type 2 diabetes live in developing countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and that number is likely to rise by 150% in the next 25 years.

The European Action on Global Life Sciences (EAGLES), a project that fights hunger and disease by enhancing collaboration between researchers in Europe and the developing world, interviewed leading diabetes researchers and practitioners in Cameroon, China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

Diabetes is disease which causes high levels of blood sugar, which can seriously damage nerves and circulation. It is caused by a lack of, or an inability to use effectively, the hormone insulin.

It was responsible for about 3.8 million deaths in 2007, about the same toll as that associated with HIV/AIDS, and four times that of malaria, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

And according to the WHO, four out of five diabetic patients live in developing countries. This is likely to increase by 150 per cent in the next 25 years.

The report's authors concluded that diabetes had risen sharply on the back of a lack of national population-based epidemiology data and specific local biomedical research, as well as low healthcare budgets.

Government officials in India for example, are reluctant to tackle diabetes if it does not bring tangible benefits. Many Indians don't even know they have the disease.

Li Liu, a paediatric diabetes physician at Guangzhou Children's Hospital in China, said many patients gave up treatment because they couldn't afford the insulin on their low incomes.

The report calls for research into affordable diagnostics and treatments, and more reliable epidemiological research.

EAGLE executive director Jens Degett said the biggest challenge was that diabetes was still not recognised as a serious problem in the developing world.

He joined the call for research into the specific aspects of diabetes in the developing world, where many people are much more vulnerable to the disease than in richer countries.

While genetic difference can be a factor in vulnerability to diabetes, he said that people in developing countries might be less aware of the unhealthy effects of junk food and poor exercise.

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