For those who didn't catch it last week, this is a jaw-dropper all right: worldwide, diabetes now claims more lives per year than even our most-feared modern-day epidemic, AIDS.
Diabetes now affects 5.9 percent of the world's adult population and accounts for 3.8 million deaths a year, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), at its annual World Diabetes Congress earlier this month in Cape Town, South Africa.
In fact, the IDF warned -- get this -- that the expected explosion of diabetes worldwide may threaten global economic advancement, as its prevalence will disproportionably disturb the economies of low and middle-income countries.
Forgive my tardiness in passing on these shocking facts due to the inevitable self-absorption of a comfortable Westernized lifestyle at the Holiday Season. Ugh...
Here are some more grim statistics to reflect on as we prepare for our Season of Plenty:
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In Mozambique, to take one poor nation for example, type 1 patients typically die about a year after diagnosis because insulin is too hard to obtain reliably.
According to the IDF, the global cost of diabetes treatment and prevention will rise to more than $302.5 billion by 2025. While the majority of people living with diabetes in 2025 will be in low and middle-income countries, these countries account for less than 15% of global diabetes prevention and care spending.
By comparison, the US accounts for more than 50% of global diabetes spending, even though it's home to only 8% of the world's population living with diabetes. And as analyst Kelly Close points out (who travelled to Capetown to cover the congress live): "if 8% seems like an epidemic to us, you can imagine what it feels like elsewhere, where good treatments can't be counted on for a second."
Speaking of the economic burdens of diabetes, did anyone catch this New York Times article a few weeks ago -- The Neediest Cases; Finding Help to Bear the Load as the Burdens of Diabetes Pile Up? This one relates the tale of the struggling Monroe family in Brooklyn, who've lost lives and limb to "the sugar," as they call it.
Luckily, this family was aided by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, a 95-year-old Fund set up by the newspaper's publisher to help the most downtrodden in his city back in 1911. It seems that the 2006-2007 fundtraising campaign began in early November, and runs through Feb. 9, 2007.
One good friend of mine told me that she nixed her nieces Hanukkah gifts this year in favor of charitable donations in their names. "They have everything, and then some," she says. And when I think on it -- especially in terms of all the people with diabetes in far worse circumstances -- so do we.
If you happen to be a New Yorker or have a desire to help out, you can donate to The Neediest Cases Fund here. Or you can donate to the IDF Life for a Child with Diabetes Fund here. A drop in the bucket, to be sure, but doing something is always better than doing nothing (as the diabetes tidal wave crashes forward).