“Diabetes is a Luxury Disease”

by Leighann on November 13, 2008

Today is World Diabetes Day. I have to say that I did not say a single thing about diabetes on this day last year. Nope, not one word.** It would still be another six months before we got the shocking diagnosis that our then three-year-old has Type 1 Diabetes. What a difference a year can make.

The focus of World Diabetes Day this year is the child. Since our diagnosis, I became heart-breakingly aware of the numbers of children in developing countries who do not have access to insulin needed just to live. How their life expectancies are drastically shorter, and how the cost of medication and supplies often exceeds their family’s monthly income.

I may be irritated when I have to argue with the insurance company about referrals, co-pays, and prescription renewals. But I am blessed to have insurance.

Things may not go 100% smoothly when we drive 200 miles to our appointments every three months. But at least we do it by car and can afford the gas and a hotel. I am blessed that my daughter thinks of these trips as vacations.

In the beginning there were days when my daughter fought us with everything she had not to check her finger or give her an injection. But she is blessed to be able to self-monitor and have life-sustaining insulin.

We are sad at times when we think with the current treatments and care her lifespan could be cut short by 10 years. But we are blessed that her life expectancy wasn’t given in months or days. (And with all the research we are optimistic that in 10 or 20 years that treatments will be even better.)

The reality is that we are blessed.
We are blessed just to live in a developed nation.


From the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Life for a Child website:

The IDF Diabetes Atlas (3rd Edition, 2007) estimates that there are around 440,000 children under 15 years with type 1 diabetes in the world. There is insufficient data to estimate the number of children with type 2 diabetes, but it must be at least in the tens of thousands.

Of the estimated 440,000 children with type 1, around 250,000 live in developing nations (with 92,000 of these in India alone).

The average life expectancy of children with diabetes in developing countries is unknown. We estimate it varies from a few months to a couple of decades – in some countries there are few if any long-term survivors. Children die quickly of high blood sugar levels through inaccurate diagnosis, lack of insulin or lack of expert care. In other countries, expert care is available but resources are limited and so early and serious complications frequently lead to death in young adulthood.

Here is the introduction to the Life of a Child Media Session (about 9 minutes):

For the entire clip including media questions, visit the site.

While watching this video about last year’s World Diabetes Day campaign, I found out the following facts:

  • Every 10 seconds someone dies from diabetes (or related complications).
  • In that 10 seconds two new people were diagnosed.
  • Every 30 seconds a leg is lost to diabetes.
  • It is the largest cause of kidney failure in the developed world.
  • The yearly death toll is higher than that for AIDS.

*Quote from the Life of a Child Media Session video. (And just a note, in the US, diabetes is usually referred to as a chronic condition because it is not technically a disease.)
**On November 14, 2007 I actually talked about hypothyroidism. At least it wasn’t something too trivial.

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