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Priorities for galvansing action around the threat of Diabetes

Istanbul, Turkey
“Today, diabetes kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined”
October 15, 2013, Istanbul
Priorities for galvansing action around the threat of DiabetesLadies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to address the International Diabetes Leadership Forum once again.

These fora serve as catalysts for new ideas, and support the development of innovative solutions to the growing challenge of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

I would like to thank the Turkish government; the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, and the President of the Social Security Institution for hosting our discussions.

I would also like to acknowledge Novo Nordisk for their continued support to this Forum, and for their contributions to the fight against diabetes.

I’m sure everyone in this audience understands the importance of this challenge.

Important lessons can be drawn from our experience of combating other global epidemics.

At the same time, I would like to share my views on the strategies that should be taken at the national, regional and global level as we accelerate efforts to tackle diabetes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Non-Communicable Diseases remain the leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for over 36 million deaths in 2008 alone.

Across the world, over 350 million people live with diabetes. Today, diabetes kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2030, it will be the 7th leading cause of death worldwide.

The Eastern Mediterranean region and Middle East may be especially hard-hit.

This region is home to six of the ten countries with the highest prevalence rates in the world, and 3.8 million people across North Africa and the Middle East now live with the disease.

Sedentary lifestyles, rapid economic development and ageing populations have resulted in a dramatic increase in diabetes sufferers.

Behind these stark statistics lie tragic human stories, for diabetes is not just a disease which kills.

It is the leading cause of blindness, amputation and kidney failure.

It is a common cause of heart disease, and on average, reduces life expectancy by about five to ten years.

Less tragic, but similarly daunting, are the indirect impacts of such chronic illness.

Costs due to diabetes now amount to approximately 14% of total government healthcare expenditure in the Middle East and North Africa.

Even more worrying is the additional burden on health systems across the world. For developing countries, this pressure may prove intolerable for their fledgling health care systems to bear.

For the 80% of diabetes patients who live in lower-income countries, the financial cost of managing their condition can leave them struggling to survive above the poverty line.

A vicious cycle is emerging where increased prevalence of NCD’s worsens poverty, which in turn exposes more people to the risk factors associated with NCD’s.

Because they are inextricably linked to the fight against poverty, these diseases do not just undermine our ambitions for better health, but also for a fairer, more prosperous world.

Thankfully, this challenge is now attracting the attention and resources it so urgently requires.

Last year, the UN General Assembly held a High-Level meeting on the prevention and control of NCD’s.

The second such meeting on non-communicable disease, it deepened understanding of the need for renewed cooperation between governments and international agencies to address diabetes.

In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, the WHO has developed a regional plan of action on the same subject.

This provides a sound framework for governments and all stakeholders to develop coherent national policies and strategies to improve prevention and cure of diabetes.

And I welcome the emphasis given to the question of NCD’s in the recent Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 development agenda.

We now have the opportunity to capitalize on this momentum, and improve cooperation between countries and amongst all stakeholders on the challenge of diabetes.

So what lessons can we identify from the current development framework to inform our strategies at the national, regional and global levels to effectively prevent and treat diabetes?

At the national level, we must continue to improve public education to raise awareness of the disease and how it can be prevented, and to develop and strengthen healthcare systems.

Prevention is the most efficient and cost-effective way to alleviate the burden of diabetes and NCD’s.

Ensuring that people can recognize symptoms and seek early treatment will significantly reduce the burden of healthcare costs associated with diabetes, and alleviate pressure on healthcare systems.

Yet in this region, almost half of all diabetes cases remain undiagnosed, and greater efforts are necessary to raise awareness and improve screening.

Prevention of NCD’s should also be fully integrated into, and prioritised within, national health plans.

Health ministries must be given the necessary resources and capacity to address this growing challenge, but we must also consider that NCD’s are closely linked to social and economic development.

Appropriate cross-sectoral policies, developed with input from all stakeholders and governmental departments, are therefore required for effective and equitable responses to the needs of diabetes sufferers.

Recent efforts in Turkey to provide universal healthcare and afford higher political priority to the prevention of NCD’s are a welcome development in this regard.

Increased cooperation on the prevention of NCD’s is also required at the regional level.

Regional networks should be developed to mobilise appropriate capabilities and funds to support national programmes, particularly in low and middle-income countries where national capacity is weak.

Governments should work closely with international agencies, such as the World Health Organisation, to develop effective regional strategies, standards of healthcare, and to track and monitor the spread of the disease and the efficacy of response.

Prevention and control of diabetes must also be given higher priority in the programmes of regional organisations, such as the League of Arab States and Gulf Cooperation Council.

And we must continue to hold forums such as this to facilitate cooperation between governments, stakeholders, the private sector, civil society and researchers, and to strengthen and harmonize regional strategies.

At the international level, we must commit to global solidarity in addressing the challenge posed by diabetes and NCD’s.

Over the next two years, governments, UN Agencies, regional organisations and relevant stakeholders will continue to debate the scope and priorities of the post-2015 global development agenda.

This provides us with an opportunity to consider which lessons from the current development framework we can draw on to best galvanise effective international action to tackle diabetes.

The Millennium Development Goals certainly provides a model from which we can draw inspiration.

The identification of clearly defined goals proved an effective means of bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders around a common cause.

Specific targets ensured that the Goals were accessible to the general public, and facilitated policy making, advocacy, and measurement of performance and progress.

This meant that we are able to track progress more clearly, and adjust strategies and resources as required.

The MDG’s have also reaffirmed the importance of sustained international cooperation and a genuine partnership for development.

It is critically important that developed nations meet their commitments to sharing experience and delivering development assistance in a manner which enables low-income countries to implement effective health interventions.

As I indicated last year, another key element of the MDG’s was the call to leverage more public and private partnerships.

We have already seen the impact that such partnerships can have across all sectors, including health.

Through the GAVI alliance for example, millions of children have been immunized against deadly diseases.

Thanks to the efforts of the Global Fund, deaths from three deadly infectious diseases- HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis- have declined.

The success of such partnerships depends on multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder input, including from business.

The private sector have unique knowledge and expertise, and can focus vital resources, increase investments and drive relevant research.

They can also do more to ensure that essential medicines are available at affordable prices, for it is not acceptable that we allow market tariffs, trade barriers and patent regulations to be obstacles to saving lives.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your participation in this Forum indicates an understanding that addressing diabetes will require the commitment and input of each sector of society.

I know that many members of this audience already engage with stakeholders across the globe in the fight against diabetes and NCD’s.

Let me conclude by urging you to continue your leadership on this vital issue, and by thanking you for working to ensure that in the 21st century, good health is a basic right to be fought for and protected.

Only by adopting such a view can we hope to improve the lives of diabetic patients, reduce the global burden of disease, and create a healthier, more prosperous global society.

Thank you.

“Today, diabetes kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined”