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New targets for managing diabetes published by WHO

By Priscilla Lynch - 16th Apr 2023

managing diabetes

A new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified five core national targets for UN member states aimed at reducing diabetes risk and ensuring that people with diabetes have equitable access to comprehensive and affordable care and prevention.

The lead author of the report, WHO Global Diabetes Compact, was Prof Edward Gregg, Head of the RCSI’s School of Population Health.

The WHO’s recommended diabetes targets, published in The Lancet, are:

1. Of all people with diabetes, at least 80 per cent have been clinically diagnosed;

2. For people with diagnosed diabetes, 80 per cent have glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) concentrations below 8.0 per cent (63·9mmol/mol), an important biomarker for diabetes;

3·80 per cent of those with diabetes have blood pressure lower than 140/90mmHg;

4. At least 60 per cent of those with diabetes who are 40 years or older are receiving therapy with statins;

5. Each person with type 1 diabetes has continuous access to insulin, blood glucose meters, and test strips.

Recent global estimates indicate that 537 million adults have diabetes, of whom 80 per cent live in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). The global impact and cost of diabetes are expected to grow considerably, disproportionately affecting the most disadvantaged populations.

Population-based studies show that, at present, the delivery of evidence-based care for people with diabetes is suboptimal even in well-resourced health systems. Many countries have high proportions of their populations with undiagnosed diabetes and many go without timely care for extended periods.

In high-income countries, the current proportions of people who meet recommended targets for risk factors, such as glycated haemoglobin or blood pressure, ranges from 50-to-70 per cent.

The situation is worse in LMICs with just half of the people with a diagnosis of diabetes having good glycaemic control, and about one-in-four having good blood pressure control.

Prof Gregg said: “Diabetes is one of the world’s most challenging public health issues due to its high and growing prevalence, and the impact it has on individuals, health systems and national economies. Yet we know that the worst outcomes from diabetes can be prevented and that many interventions are cost-effective and feasible to implement. However, there are enormous global gaps in their delivery that the efforts of the Compact can alter.

“Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented through intensive lifestyle interventions and medication for individuals at high-risk, and population-wide changes to dietary quality, physical activity levels, and prevalence of obesity. For people with diagnosed diabetes, delivery of essential medications and management of glycaemia and cardiometabolic risk factors, alongside early screening for complications via well organised care, can reduce acute and chronic complications and extend life.” 

Diabetes is one of the world’s most challenging public health issues due to its high and growing prevalence, and the impact it has on individuals, health systems and national economies

According to Prof Gregg, “while these goals are ambitious, their achievement can reduce the number of people living with diabetes and greatly improve the outcomes and quality-of-life of people who are diagnosed with the condition. We hope the WHO Global Diabetes Compact serves as a helpful framework for countries to take action and reduce the burden of diabetes globally.”

The Global Disease Compact was assembled by the WHO to identify potential metrics across four domains (structural, systems or policy level, processes of care, biomarkers, and behaviours, and long-term health events and outcomes) and three risk tiers (diagnosed diabetes, high-risk for diabetes, and whole population), and prioritised metrics according to their health importance, modifiability, data availability, and the degree to which they represent areas of global inequality.

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