Diabetes is affecting the worldwide population at record levels. More than 371 million people are living with the disease and at least 50 percent of those afflicted are not even aware they have it.
Diabetes is classically viewed as a problem exclusive to western cultures, notorious for a lifestyle of sloth and gluttony, but the eastern hemisphere is not immune. Obesity has spread across the water infiltrating countries like China, where obesity rates have risen to consume 40 percent of the country and 92.3 million people are suffering from diabetes – more than any other nation in the world.
Even countries that once seemed immune to obesity are finding weight-related chronic diseases, like diabetes, laced throughout the population – many of these are in the sub-Saharan desert of Africa where less than one-fifth of diabetes cases ever get diagnosed. And where, the transport of much-needed medications to treat diabetes is nearly impossible.
The incidence of diabetes is expected to swell to 550 million worldwide by 2030, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Drug companies are setting global development goals to get their drugs into the hands of the growing number of people all over the world, who need them.
Slapping a band-aid on a gushing wound will not solve the problem.
Tackling a disease like diabetes is far less complicated than it seems. Lifestyle changes, not pill-popping or injections, can reverse insulin resistance – allowing some diabetes patients to give up their medications. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health, found that losing weight and increasing physical activity reduced the incidence of diabetes by 58 percent.
If someone told a cancer patient that exercise and a healthy diet would cure them, do you think they would do it?
It seems like a silly question, yet the diabetic population continues to grow.
Policymakers across the globe are scratching their heads, baffled as to what can be done to motivate the majority of the population to change. While each government fishes for solutions, private companies are taking matters into their own hands. Many health insurance companies, like Aviva in the U.K., are beginning to reward policyholders for maintaining or improving their health. Some employers, like USAA in San Antonio, offer similar incentives for their employees, including gyms on company grounds, healthy menus in office cafeterias and additional breaks for wellness activities.
Tossing bad habits are 50 percent motivation and 50 percent means and support. The means and support for reversing diabetes are well within reach – many communities offer diabetes prevention programs at no cost to participants. These programs, however, have poor turnout rates and even greater rates of attrition. The threats of amputated limbs, failed eyesight or premature death do not seem to be motivation enough for change.