Type 2 diabetes in children on the rise

There are about 285 million diabetics worldwide, representing 6.4 % of the adult population (20-79 age group). According to International Diabetes Federation (IDF) figures, the number is expected to reach some 438 million by 2030. While in the past, Type 2 diabetes was often thought of as a disease of the elderly, there is now a rising trend of Type 2 diabetes in younger age groups.

Whereas in Europe the largest numbers of people with diabetes are in the 60-79 age group, in regions as South and Central America, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific, the largest number of diabetics lies in the 40-59 age range, and this age group now numbers 113 million diabetics, representing 46% of the total number.

Additionally, Type 2 diabetes in children is on the rise, a trend clearly linked to an increasing prevalence of obesity, which in turn is associated with changing dietary and lifestyle patterns. The shift to a Westernised lifestyle characterised by, among other things, poor diet and lack of exercise is fast occurring in both developed and developing countries, where it is most common in urban areas. Studies have shown that young Type 2 diabetics run the risk of developing micro- and macrovascular complications at a relatively early age.

The overall annual increase in young Type 1 diabetics is estimated at around 3%. Some 70,000 children under the age of 14 develop Type 1 diabetes annually.
Of the estimated total of approximately 440,000 cases of Type 1 diabetes in children under 14, more than 20% are in the European Region. Finland, Sweden and Norway have the highest incidence rates for Type 1 diabetes in children.

In addition, diabetes also imposes a large economic burden. Estimates indicate that at least US$106 billion will be spent on healthcare for diabetes in the European Region in 2010, accounting for 28% of global expenditure. As with the wide variation in diabetes prevalence, the range of spending between countries is expected to be huge, from more than US$7,000 per person in Luxembourg to under US$15 per person in Montenegro. Also, more money is expected to be spent on diabetes care for women than for men.

Integrating plans for the prevention of diabetes into national health systems and policy frameworks is an important part of the response. The IDF warns that many health systems worldwide are not yet equipped to handle the extent of the diabetes threat, and that failure to take action will have serious consequences.
‘The world needs to invest in integrated health systems that can diagnose, treat, manage and prevent diabetes,’ says Professor Nigel Unwin, co-chair of the IDF Diabetes Atlas committee. ‘Governments also need to invest in actions outside the formal health sector, particularly in promoting healthier diets and physical activity, to reduce obesity and the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Without effective prevention diabetes will overwhelm health systems and hinder economic growth.’


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