Advocates call for action to prevent type 2 diabetes

The worldwide type 2 diabetes rate is continuing to worsen, with more people being diagnosed with the condition every year. In order to avert continually rising costs and a public health disaster, experts are calling on governments to address the problem.

The International Diabetes Federation recently estimated that 366 million people worldwide now have type 2 diabetes, according to the Associated Press. This is significantly higher than previous estimates and reflects the growing depth of the problem. It is estimated that one person now dies every seven seconds from the condition.

Officials said governments around the world need to take swift and dramatic action to control the problem. The group called for $9 billion in new spending on tobacco control, food education and basic treatments.

This may be somewhat difficult to swallow for governments that are struggling to balance budgets. However, the group pointed out that treating diabetes already costs $465 billion per year. Investing in prevention could bring this number down considerably. A proposal to address the growing diabetes rates is expected to come next week from a United Nations meeting on non-communicable diseases.

"The clock is ticking for the world's leaders," said Jean Claude Mbanya, president of the federation, quoted by the news source. "We expect action from their meeting next week at the United Nations that will halt diabetes' relentlessly upwards trajectory."

Whatever comes out of the United Nations meeting could have important implications for addressing rising type 2 diabetes rates in the U.S. The country is one of the hardest hit by the condition. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 25.8 million people have diabetes, which is more than 8 percent of the population. There may also be more than 1 million who are undiagnosed.

The condition costs the U.S. $174 billion each year in direct medical expenses and lost productivity. This high cost is the reason why advocates are looking for a modest investment in prevention. Doing so could lead to long-term savings.

Despite its high prevalence, type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. Years of living a sedentary lifestyle and eating a high-fat diet are the main causes of the condition. However, prevention has been proven to be effective.

A recent study published in the journal Health Affairs showed that enrolling individuals between the ages of 60 and 65 who have prediabetes in weight loss programs could save the U.S. $7 billion per year. This could make a major dent in diabetes spending over the long-term.

With many world governments struggling under heavy debt burdens and looking to trim spending, media commentators have predicted that the United Nations meeting will not yield a concrete proposal to invest in type 2 diabetes prevention efforts. However, it has been decades since such a high-level meeting has taken place to discuss health conditions. This may indicate that the consequences of the condition are at least starting to be taken seriously.