Diabetes: Organising globally, acting locally

Diabetes, Parliamentary Diabetes Global Network
Adding sugar with a spoon. © Stocksnapper

Adrian Sanders, Secretary-General of The Parliamentarians for Diabetes Global Network (PDGN) reveals how organising globally, acting locally is a sound approach when it comes to tackling diabetes

On 2nd December 2013 at the first Parliamentary Diabetes Global Network (PDGN) meeting in Melbourne, Australia, attended by invited parliamentarians representing 50 countries, a declaration on diabetes was agreed and signed.

It called for urgent action to address the diabetes pandemic and committed the signatories to work across parliaments to help prevent the incidence of diabetes, ensure early diagnosis and improve the treatment of people with the condition.

PDGN was the first global network of parliamentarians for a specific medical condition formed to create a platform to raise the profile of diabetes within governments across the world.

It fills a missing gap where there is cross-national communication among medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies, health ministers and patient groups but nothing for parliamentarians who can set the agenda, influence budgets and vote for policies.
Through the communication of ideas and best practice and the encouragement of action within parliaments around the world, we can move towards that tipping point where the allocation of resources and effort to prevent, diagnose and treat diabetes is no longer questioned.

The urgency required cannot be overstated given the rising tide of diabetes across all continents and countries rich and poor. Already, the scale of the challenge threatens the health care budgets of most countries and the economies of many.

In the UK, expenditure on diabetes has reached 10% of the NHS budget. According to Diabetes UK, more people than ever have diabetes and if nothing changes, more than 5 million people will have the condition in the UK by 2025.

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Only around 10% of people with diabetes have the non-preventable Type 1 where people don’t produce insulin and have to inject it for the rest of their lives. The much more common Type 2 affects around 90% of people with diabetes and can be controlled by tablets and diet, and even reversed in a minority of cases. There are also other rarer types like, MODI, monogenic and gestational diabetes.

All types of diabetes run the risk of the same long-term complications resulting from damage to various organs including the eyes, kidneys, heart and skin, often requiring expensive interventions including hospitalisation and ultimately, reduced life expectancy.

In human, as well as financial terms, the burden of diabetes is enormous which is why PDGN exists to build coalitions of advocates for action to tackle the pandemic at local, regional, national and trans-national level. Our focus is on raising the matter in parliaments and assemblies across the globe to spread better understanding and awareness of diabetes and the urgency with which it needs to be addressed.

Since its creation in 2013, cross-party groups linked to PDGN have formed in legislatures across the world. From Australia to Zimbabwe, parliaments and assemblies have endorsed or debated the Melbourne Declaration, taken up ideas and campaigns, introduced legislation, amended budgets and held national governments feet to the fire where World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Sustainable Development targets are concerned.

The network now has 270 members across 71 countries with active groups in over 20. Advice and information are sought and given across a variety of diabetes-related issues in a diverse range of counties; from sugar taxes in Bermuda and Morocco, to national diabetes plans in Australia and Malta.

It is a great honour to be tasked with running the network and helping MPs and other policymakers to shape and influence national policies to ensure we prepare our health care systems for the challenges of the 21st Century.


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