World Diabetes Day

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Today is World Diabetes Day. I make insulin and have been proud of my job for the five years I’ve been doing it.

When I was a child, I remember visiting Aunt Annie just a couple of times. I remember she was very fat and “they” said she had diabetes, though I didn’t know what it was.

Then I worked at a church camp in my teens. For a week or two each summer, the campers were all diabetics, rather than the usual congregational crowd. That was when we would sneak glucose tabs as snacks. Two of my fellow camp staffers were diabetic, including one of my best friends, Carlos.

Diabetes hasn’t really touched my life so personally lately, though some of my coworkers are diabetic. But every day I have my hand in the process; I worked in a lab here for several years, testing insulin, and now I support that lab in an office role. I’m glad I don’t need insulin but also glad that we can provide it for lots of people and that my company is involved in efforts like World Diabetes Day.

From the International Diabetes Federation:

The global diabetes epidemic has devastating human, social and economic effects. The largest costs of diabetes worldwide are its devastating effects on families and national economies.

Impact on families and people with diabetes

Diabetes is expected to cause 3.8 million deaths worldwide in 2007, about 6% of total global mortality, about the same as HIV/AIDS. Using World Health Organization (WHO) figures on years of life lost per person dying of diabetes, this translates into more than 25 million years of life lost each year.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that the equivalent of an additional 23 million years of life are lost to the disability and to reduced quality of life caused by the preventable complications of diabetes.

People living with diabetes and their families feel the impact of diabetes most directly. They feel the often crushing expenses of diabetes treatments as costs are not subsidized, and family income is frequently reduced when diabetes interferes with work.

It is often the case that caring for diabetes steals valuable time from education, paid work and leisure. In many countries, individuals and families fear and experience the disability, reduced quality of life, and the lost years of life that untreated diabetes brings.

People with diabetes face the near certainty, in many countries the stark reality, of premature death.
Type 1 diabetes is particularly costly in terms of mortality in poor countries, where many children die because access to life-saving insulin is not subsidized by governments (who instead tax it heavily), and is often not available at any price.
Studies recently carried out in Zambia, Mali and Mozambique highlight a stark reality: a person requiring insulin for survival in Zambia will live an average of 11 years; a person in Mali can expect to live for 30 months; in Mozambique a person requiring insulin will be dead within 12 months.
In the poorest countries, people with diabetes and their families bear almost the entire cost of whatever medical care they can afford.
In Latin America, families pay 40-60% of diabetes care costs out of their own pockets.
In India, for example, the poorest people with diabetes spend an average of 25% of their income on private care. Most of this money is used to stay alive by avoiding fatally high blood sugar levels.

Americans take for granted access to insulin; we also eat McDonald’s and sit on the couch and cause our own diabetic demise. Just think if you lived in a place that didn’t have insulin, syringes, or glucose testing available to you.

You can sponsor a child with diabetes to provide access to life-saving medicine and supplies at www.lifeforachild.org.

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