Annually on Nov 14, the world observes World Diabetes Day. Created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the day raises awareness of the health threat posed by diabetes. This year begins a new theme for World Diabetes Day, Accessing Diabetes Care–If Not Now, When? The focus on accessing diabetes care will remain the theme of World Diabetes Day through 2023.
Diabetes is a health condition that affects the way one’s body produces or uses insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar. According to the Center for Disease Control, roughly 5-10% of the 537 million people living with diabetes have Type 1, meaning their bodies do not produce insulin naturally. The other 90-95% of people have Type 2 diabetes. While those with Type 2 do produce their own insulin, their bodies do not respond to the insulin produced.
World Diabetes Day and Geographic Barriers
Living with diabetes, whether Type 1 or Type 2, requires uninterrupted access to care. However, accessing care remains difficult for those from economically developing countries, rural areas, or low-income populations in countries like the U.S. where insulin and glucose monitors remain high.
Globally, diabetes disproportionately affects people living in economically developing countries. As of the IDF’s 2021 report, roughly 81% of people living with diabetes live in low-to-middle income countries. This disparity can be traced back to the lack of educational resources in these countries. While this is due in part to a lack of funding to support research and public health initiatives, low-and-middle-income countries are also more likely to lack endocrinologists, who specialize in treating diseases like diabetes.
Barriers in the United States
For those living in the U.S. barriers to accessing care are not distant problems. The cost of insulin is significantly higher in the U.S. compared to other countries. Additionally, glucose monitors can have annual costs anywhere from $1,000-$3,000. This is a particular issue for low-income populations, where individuals are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured.
Rural areas in the U.S. especially struggle to access diabetes care. Not only are uninsured individuals more likely to live in rural communities, but rural areas tend to have fewer healthcare providers in general. This makes healthcare providers specializing in fields like endocrinology especially rare in comparison to larger metropolitan areas. Additionally, limited transportation options between rural areas and these metropolitan areas add additional logistics and costs to access care.
Interested in learning more about diabetes and improving care accessibility? Consider a clinical rotation in endocrinology.