Diabetes has become a global issue that disproportionally affects poorer nations. A report released Wednesday by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that the disease has spread unequally. 442 million adults live with diabetes today, most of whom are in low-income countries.

Compared to rich nations, the chronic disease prevalence increased faster in low- and middle-income countries over the past decade. Poorer countries overtook high-income nations for the first time within the last ten years.

According to a new alarming report released by the WHO, diabetes has become a global issue that disproportionally affects poorer nations. Credit: Diabetes News Journal

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said in a statement that all nations must take action to eat healthier foods, have physical activity and avoid excessive weight gain in order to stop the rise in diabetes.

“Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes”, Dr. Chan added.

Some regions are disproportionately affected by diabetes

From 1980 to 2014, the Eastern Mediterranean increased its lead over the rest of the countries, from 0.6 percent to 5.1 percent. Prevalence of the disease in this region rose from 5.9 percent to 13.7 percent.

WHO officials are not yet clear about the causes of such disproportions in poorer nations. Etienne Krug, head of the WHO Department of Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, commented that a very rapid urbanization has taken place in the low – and middle-income countries.

Krug spoke about people who have moved from the fields to the cities, leaving behind their quite healthy lifestyle. They were used to hard physical work, had access to cheap fruit and vegetables and their transportation modes were mostly their feet or bicycles. Unsurprisingly, Krug mentioned poverty as one of the key factors because people living in poorer countries have less or no access to healthy foods.

Still, he said there wasn’t a clear explanation for the problem.


Health experts haven’t found a way to prevent Type 1 diabetes, which consists of a body unable to produce enough insulin, a peptide hormone that regulates blood sugar. But they do know how to prevent Type 2 diabetes, in which the body uses insulin ineffectively.

Krug said that diabetes prevention also requires better management, which includes improving diagnosis and treatment, as well as broadening access to insulin by subsidizing or reducing prices or enhancing the supply chain. Significant complications occur when doctors fail to diagnose the chronic disease right on time, he stated.

Source: Washington Post