Less than two months from now -- September 19-20 -- heads of government will convene at the first-ever United Nations High-Level Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Diabetes is one of four non-communicable diseases (cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease are the other three) that threaten the world's health, prosperity, economic development and progress -- yes, including that of the U.S.
World leaders will assess the costs of NCDs both to our health and global economy -- and commit to actions to contain both. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) -- a global advocacy organization for diabetes care, prevention and a cure -- cost-effective solutions exist now. And now is the time political leadership must champion them. Now, or it will be too late. President Obama has not yet decided whether to attend the Summit.
This is a potential turning point for diabetes -- and for those who live with it. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to halt diabetes: a disease that is killing and disabling millions of people here at home and around the world, impoverishing millions of families and undermining economic progress. This is an opportunity to prevent diabetes' continued rise, and to improve care, treatment, education and resources for you and your family, people far and wide, rich and poor.
First lady Michelle Obama is also being lobbied as keynote speaker for the Summit. Through her mission to eradicate childhood obesity she knows well the coming tsunami of children getting type 2 diabetes, once an old person's disease. When children get type 2 diabetes, they also get cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and may need kidney dialysis decades earlier, in their 40s, having lived with diabetes 25 or 30 years. Your children, our children, the world's children.
Now at this moment in history, as the world comes together to turn the tide of diabetes and fight for its prevention and control -- and that of other non communicable diseases -- the Obamas' presence signals to Heads of State around the world that we cannot allow these diseases to continue to escalate and threaten our individual and global economic health.
The IDF has developed a postcard campaign -- "O is for Outrage" -- outrage that every day people die unnecessarily of diabetes, that the world's poor cannot get life-sustaining medicine, that diabetes care everywhere is not getting the resources and attention it needs -- and they are asking for your help to persuade President Obama to attend the UN Summit.
Please Send a Postcard To President Obama
Click here and your postcard will be sent to the White House on August 31. In 30 seconds you may change history for yourself, your family and millions around the world. As IDF CEO Ann Keeling says, "We do not want the world to sleepwalk into a sick future that is avoidable."
Why you should care
According to statistics right now you or someone you know has diabetes. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and more people die of diabetes-related causes, like heart attacks and stroke, than breast cancer and HIV/AIDs combined. As a diabetes educator said to me, "Soon you will not be able to get into the hospital; all the beds will be taken up by people with diabetes."
The statistics about the diabetes epidemic below are sobering.
- Every 10 seconds, two people are diagnosed with diabetes, and one person dies from diabetes-related causes
- 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. has diabetes. One-third of all U.S. adults are projected to have diabetes by 2050
- Over 300 million people around the world have diabetes. Within a generation half a billion people will have diabetes
- Last year one health care dollar in every eight spent across the world went to diabetes
- Diabetes will cost the global economy at least U.S.376 billion in 2010. If nothing is done to reverse the epidemic, IDF predicts the cost will exceed U.S.490 billion.
- In 2008, 63 percent of all global deaths were due to NCDs
It doesn't have to be this way
If President Obama hears our concerns to attend the summit, Jessica Apple and her husband Mike, founders of A Sweet Life.org and both living with type 1 diabetes say, "It will help diabetes be recognized as the devastating epidemic that it is. It will help the world understand that improving diabetes care is imperative and that finding a cure for diabetes is urgent." Everyone I know who has diabetes, and who works in diabetes, feels the same.
Jean Claude Mbanya, IDF's President is "Outraged"
Last month I attended a social media summit hosted by Roche where I had the pleasure to meet IDF President, Professor Jean Claude Mbanya, and hear him speak. Mbanya is also Chief of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases at the Hospital in Yaoundé, Africa. Mbanya's concern for those with diabetes around the world, currently and growing, is gripping; his outrage palpable. "It is outrageous," he said, "that a drug (insulin) which was discovered in 1921 is not accessible to everyone who needs it in the world.
It is outrageous that 490 million people will have diabetes by 2030. How can we allow this to happen? It is outrageous that based on where you are born you either live or die with diabetes. That life is a matter of geography. We have to do something!" Mbanya roared moving about the room as sure-footed as a lion. He mesmerized us with his outrage -- and his desire to create solutions.
"We must work together to ensure world leaders who attend the Summit agree to a concrete set of commitments that will result in sustained action. The need has never been greater," says Mbanya. That need needs America to play a leading role as the incidence of NCDs is predicted to rise 17 percent over the next 10 years worldwide.
President and Mrs. Obama we ask you to attend the UN Summit and let us at home, and those around the world, know that America is committed to curbing and eradicating diabetes, a threat to all our future.
Send your postcard today and pass this article to others encouraging them to do so. This is the opportunity in our lifetime to change our fate if we live with diabetes -- and to change the fate of our families, future generations and the health and prosperity of our country and the world.
Note: The International Diabetes Federation is organizing a gathering in Manhattan's Central Park on Sunday, September 18th for people to show their support for President Obama to attend the UN Summit, for non-communicable diseases to get the attention they deserve and for the creation of healthier environments. Details will be continuously updated here.
Riva is the author of 50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life and the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It and The ABC's Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes. Visit her web site Diabetes Stories.com.