International Women’s Day (IWD) is a time to celebrate the progress that women have achieved over 100 years after the day's inception. It is also a time to be clear on the action needed to address the new challenges facing women and girls in the 21st century.
This year on IWD, IDF is calling for renewed action on one of the major challenges to women’s health and development worldwide – diabetes and the related non-communicable disease (NCD) epidemic. Currently a staggering 181 million women are living with diabetes worldwide and that number is rising every year. Increasingly these women are of reproductive age and live in low- and middle-income countries, many of whom have no access to care, remain undiagnosed and too often endure life threatening pregnancy complications.
Collectively, NCDs - namely cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes – are the leading cause of death in women globally. The impact of these diseases in women is profound and goes beyond their own health. Husbands are losing wives, and children are losing mothers. Families across the world incur debt and destitution when mothers become disabled by NCDs and struggle to pay for treatment. Every case is a personal tragedy and collectively the high cost of NCDs in terms of healthcare and lost productivity threatens to undermine gains made to date in other areas of development and health.
As a pioneer in women and diabetes and a leader in the women and NCDs movement, the International Diabetes Federation is making a difference for girls and women worldwide. We have already demonstrated our leadership around these issues in three important ways.
Firstly, we pledged an ambitious commitment to the UN’s Every Woman Every Child Initiative, which is an unprecedented global movement that mobilises partners to address the major health challenges facing women and children around the world. IDF made a promise to “increase recognition of the linkages between diabetes and related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and women and children’s health, support the integration of diabetes into existing health systems and maternal and new-born child health initiatives, and empower girls and women to prevent diabetes in current and future generations”. We are serious about this commitment, and are already seeing progress.
Secondly, we demonstrated our leadership by securing global political commitments for women living with or at risk of NCDs. We did this through the UN High-Level Summit on NCDs in September 2011. Through our effective advocacy with the UN and Member States, the Summit resulted in the adoption of the Political Declaration which signals that governments finally understand women disproportionately shoulder the burden of NCDs and the care giving role. The Declaration also recognises that maternal and child health is inextricably linked with NCDs, and advocates for integrated programmes across infectious, maternal and new-born children health and NCDs, as well as gender responsive approaches. This was a major step forward, both in terms of political recognition and commitments for action to improve the health of girls and women worldwide.
Finally and most recently, IDF has celebrated the launch of its Women in India with GDM Strategy (WINGS). This is IDF’s first-ever project to tackle the rising incidence of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) in India. According to recent estimates, up to 17.7% of women in India have Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) and many of those will go on to develop type 2 diabetes after child birth.
The WINGS pilot project aims to develop a Model of Care for GDM which can feasibly be implemented in a low resource setting. It is a joint collaboration between IDF and the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, an IDF Centre of Education, managed by Dr V Mohan. The work takes place in health centres in Chennai and rural centres in the surrounding areas.WINGS will be piloted in India before being evaluated and rolled-out in other low and middle income countries.
Today on IWD, IDF is celebrating the increasing global political momentum for both girl’s and women’s health, and diabetes and NCDs. However, our work is only just beginning. We now need to work together – across the UN, governments, the private sector and civil society - to ensure these commitments translate into action. We all have a role to play, and only by working in partnerships will we begin to see real change for global health and the millions of women, girls, men and boys we serve.