by Marina Maggini (National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy) and Jelka Zaletel (National Institute of Public Health, Ljubljana, Slovenia)
Diabetes is a common and serious disease: in 2015 there were 415 million adults (aged 20-79 years) with diabetes worldwide, according to the most recent estimates of the International Diabetes Federation. This represents about 9% of the population of this age group. If left unchecked, some 642 million people are expected to have diabetes by 2040. In the European Union, the frequency of diabetes varies from around 4.0 to 4.5% in Lithuania, Estonia and Ireland to just under 10% in Cyprus, Malta and Portugal.
Diabetes increases the risk for many serious health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, blindness, neuropathy, foot complications, nephropathy. However, lifestyle intervention provided for people at high risk may prevent many cases of type 2 diabetes, the more common condition, or delay significantly its onset. Moreover, many people with diabetes are able to prevent or delay the onset of complications with treatment, lifestyle changes and efficient self-management.
The launch, in 2014, of the European Joint Action on Chronic Diseases and Promoting Healthy Ageing across the Life Cycle (JA-CHRODIS) is a response to the European Commission’s encouragement to join forces towards prevention and care of major chronic diseases. Diabetes was selected as a case study to strengthen health care for people with chronic diseases. The main objective is to use available knowledge to improve coordination and cooperation among countries to act on diabetes through exchange of good practices.
A mapping of national diabetes plans in Europe was undertaken as part of JA-CHRODIS, and formed the basis for a policy brief aimed at the identification of factors that can facilitate development, implementation, and sustainability of national diabetes plans. European countries made progress, even if with different approaches, in their systematic policy response to diabetes burden. The lessons learnt from these experiences may support countries’ efforts to build a successful and comprehensive strategy for the prevention and care of diabetes and, more broadly, chronic diseases.