Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Diabetes in China: the numbers are staggering

by Michael Woodhead

The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal is this month running a series of articles focusing n type 2 diabetes in China.  

The numbers make for grim reading: more than 12% of Chinese are reported to have diabetes (100 million people) according to US criteria (although there is some dispute over whether these  criteria may result in overestimates).  Because of the lack of awareness and lack of adequate screening and intervention programs, many of the Chinese with diabetes are undiagnosed, untreated, or uncontrolled. 

The articles say that Chinese people are especially prone to type 2 diabetes at relatively low levels of overweight, and Chinese people are more susceptible to [insulin producing] beta cell failure and deficits in insulin production. The blame, unsurprisingly, is put on China's rapid development and shift to lifestyle factors such as eating an unhealthy diet and doing less exercise. 

A second article says that there are also problems with provision of prevention and treatment programs for diabetes in China. As well, there is little research on the best forms of drug therapy for Chinese people with diabetes. Newer [and more expensive] anti-diabetes agents such as the gliptins seem ideal, but they are not currently accessible or widely used by most doctors.

The articles conclude by saying that any solution to the diabetes epidemic in China must be based on multiple strategies: there needs to be healthcare reform to make diabetes prevention and treatment more widely available through primary care and through initiatives such as diabetes nurses. There are need to be major preventive health campaigns to promote healthier eating and activity, to reduce the risk factors for diabetes in China. The articles also note that health reforms are needed to provide adequate health insurance cover and reimbursement for treatment of diabetes patients in China

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