Why Diabetes?

With the rapidly increasing aging population and socio-economic changes, diabetes is becoming a formidable public health problem in India and in the world at large.

Many epidemiological studies demonstrated that people of Indian origin are more susceptible to diabetes than other populations. For example, a study in diabetes in Singapore (Diabetes Care 22:241, 1999) (Figure 1) demonstrated that there is a two-fold increase of diabetes among Indians in comparison with Malays and Chinese. The life expectancy in India may reach the same level as Singapore by 2025 based on the current trend. Assuming a lower prevalence among Indians settled in rural areas >10% prevalence among all Indians could be predicted. Similar or higher prevalence has been reported among people of Indian origin in other countries such as South Africa. It is therefore, likely that among 1 billion Indians, ~ 150 million will be diabetic which will constitute the largest group of diabetic people in the world. In addition, it is likely that even a higher number of people have "impaired fasting glucose" and "impaired glucose tolerance," both which also may contribute to vascular complications. The vast majority of these people remain undiagnosed until they develop a serious complication such as heart attack, kidney failure, other vascular diseases resulting in amputation of limbs, blindness, debilitating neuropathy, and kidney failure.

Early diagnosis and effective treatment can prevent or delay many of these complications. Life-style changes (e.g. exercise and diet) and other measures can prevent diabetes in many people. Education of physicians, paramedical staff, and the population at large can play a key role in preventing many debilitating complications, thus preserving the quality of life of vast populations. Such measures will also help reduce the enormous financial burden that society will have to bear if attempts to treat rather than prevent diabetic complications.

Research in to the cause of the increased prevalence of diabetes among Indians has the potential to not only improve the quality of life of Indians but also the people in the world at large. It is highly likely that such research could be facilitated by a non-profit organization such as the World-India Diabetes Foundation.

The gathering at Rochester meeting recognized the need to establish a foundation to promote research and education on diabetes in India. The ultimate goal of the foundation is to cure people who have diabetes and to prevent the development of diabetes in those who do not have it. In addition, the Foundation will support the establishment of the state-of-the-art academic centers of excellence to treat diabetes.