PATH is taking the lead in tackling diabetes in low- and middle-income countries where many people go undiagnosed or don’t have access to treatment. Photo: PATH/Matthew Dakin.
Turning the tide on diabetes
Diabetes is on the rise worldwide, but it’s especially hard on the world’s poorest communities. Today, 75 percent of all people living with the disease reside in low- or middle-income countries, where people often have limited access to health care and are at higher risk of complications.
Fortunately, targeted interventions, together with greater global attention, can turn the tide. PATH is at the forefront of these efforts. We’re working with global leaders, national governments, and communities themselves to get ahead of diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) to protect and improve lives.
A growing burden
Health systems in developing countries were built primarily to address acute or infectious diseases. They often lack the capacity to provide early diagnosis or the medicines and technologies needed to manage diabetes and other chronic illnesses. As a result, many people living with diabetes in low- or middle-income countries remain undiagnosed.
Getting diagnosed late or not having access to essential medicines leaves people vulnerable to diabetes-related complications such as kidney disease, vision loss, and high blood pressure, and increases the risk of other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis.
Diabetes—with its high rates of disability and death, combined with costly care—contributes to the cycle of poverty in families and communities. A vast increase in diabetes cases could threaten the health and economic stability of entire countries.
Unfortunately, this scenario may not be far off. The prevalence of diabetes in Africa is anticipated to more than double by 2040, and other regions are not far behind. Yet in 2011, just 1.2 percent of global development assistance for health targeted NCD-related interventions, and of that, only a fraction went to diabetes.
Raising the profile of diabetes
PATH is taking the lead on confronting this growing crisis, applying our long-standing work in women’s cancers and our expertise in technology advancement, health system strengthening, advocacy, and commodity security to strengthen prevention, early diagnosis, and management of diabetes and ensure that health products are available when and where they are needed.
We are raising the profile of diabetes and other NCDs and engaging global and national stakeholders from all sectors to increase investment and build the evidence to successfully address the double burden of infectious diseases and NCDs.
Strengthening and integrating care
PATH is strengthening health systems to better respond to diabetes and other health challenges. For example, we’re helping bring more services together under one roof (providing diabetes testing at HIV clinics, for instance), and providing more access points to care closer to home.
Advancing technologies to improve screening
Early diagnosis and disease management can reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications and improve health. PATH evaluates new screening tools and methods, advancing the most promising technologies and innovative approaches and opening the doors to early diagnosis and treatment.
Breaking down barriers to access
Understanding the barriers to affordable essential medicines and technologies is key to developing solutions for better access. A study by PATH found that people in some countries invest up to 20 days of wages for one month’s supply of insulin.
The study was part of PATH’s No Empty Shelves: Diabetes Supplies, There When Needed project. Supported by Novo Nordisk, the project is engaging the international community in a call to action to address the barriers to access outlined in the report.
Diabetes and other NCDs present an unavoidable new challenge for the global health community. But we believe we can meet that challenge by innovating to advance new approaches and tools, advocating to increase support, integrating prevention and care in strengthened health systems, and optimizing the availability of essential medicines and technologies.