Every year, world diabetes day is marked to highlight a problem that has become endemic in European societies. Prevention is the buzzword, but how much has been done to change the current situation?
Among the non-communicable diseases, diabetes is one of the most common and affects more than 30 million EU citizens. When lifestyle factors and lack of prevention measures are taken into account, this figure is expected to increase, resulting in more than 15 per cent of the EU population being affected by 2030.
The impact of diabetes is clear when we examine its impact on life expectancy. The decrease in life expectancy associated with type one diabetes is up to 20 years.
In early 2012, the European parliament approved a resolution calling on the commission to develop and implement a targeted EU diabetes strategy, which included prevention, diagnosis, management, education and research as key dimensions for intervention.
"In order to coordinate, we need national programmes in place to tackle diabetes and yet many member states have yet to implement one"
At that time, we also called on the commission to draw up common, standardised criteria and methods for data collection on diabetes, and, in collaboration with the member states, to coordinate, collect, register, monitor and manage comprehensive epidemiological data on diabetes, as well as economic data on the direct and indirect costs of diabetes prevention and management. These calls are still to be answered.
In order to coordinate, we need national programmes in place to tackle diabetes and yet many member states have yet to implement one. Inequality remains a key factor in quality of treatment and access to healthcare.
Additionally, social and economic conditions are crucial to defining the quality of treatment and access, as people living with diabetes have to provide around 95 per cent of their own care. Discrimination against people that suffer from diabetes remains a reality. These issues are increasingly important as levels of poverty and social inequality in the EU have risen over recent years as a result of the economic crisis and the socially disastrous options pursued by EU institutions.
Healthcare systems have been one of the most affected sectors by austerity policies, as cuts in public expenditure continue to be imposed, especially in the eurozone periphery. As a result, the fight for a diabetes policy is now even more crucial. There is no way of doing this without ensuring that patients and their families have continued access to primary and secondary care.
The work which remains to be done must involve numerous actors. The European institutions cannot ignore the impact of their decisions in the health domain and the negative consequences of the crisis. National governments cannot continue to not address the thousands of people suffering from diabetes.
Parliamentary representatives must continue to bring these issues to the political agenda and work together with NGOs and those affected.
This is why we need to continue to celebrate world diabetes day, to ensure we remember our commitments to those deserving of a quality of life and access to treatment. If not, diabetes will continue to be a silent but effective killer.