Growing diabetes epidemic set to explode healthcare budgets in Eastern Europe

14 Sep 2006 09:04

Copenhagen, Denmark/14 September 2006 - Health budgets across Eastern Europe will face crippling increases in healthcare costs if nothing is done to defuse the diabetes epidemic, experts from the International Diabetes Federation warned today.

New data from the International Diabetes Federation show that 53.2 million people now live with diabetes in Europe. Although national prevalence rates for diabetes show wide variation - from 2.0% in Iceland to 11.8% in Germany – it is estimated that across the entire European region diabetes now affects 8.4% of the adult population². Three years ago this figure stood at 7.8%.³ Without appropriate action the prevalence figure is estimated to rise to 9.8% by 2025.

To a certain extent the high prevalence of diabetes in Europe is a consequence of a relatively elderly population, where a third of the population is over 50 years of age, and is expected to increase to over 40% by 2025. The number of persons with diabetes and Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) will increase even though the total regional population will have decreased. The largest number of people with diabetes will be in the 60-79 age group in Europe in 2007, whereas in other regions such as South America, South East Asia and the Western Pacific it is in the 40-59 age group.

The high diabetes prevalence will place an increasing financial burden on the declining working-age population to provide resources for the health consequences of rising diabetes prevalence in the older population.

Economic systems in Eastern European countries in particular are at a high risk of seeing their economy disrupted by the diabetes epidemic. Although the prevalence rates of diabetes are similar to those in Western Europe, the healthcare infrastructure is threatened due to lower economic development. These countries will struggle to cope with the epidemic.

Diabetes threatens to have a greater impact in Eastern European countries than in Western ones. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that diabetes, heart disease and stroke combined will cost about $303.2 billion in lost national income in the Russian Federation over the next 10 years. The impact of diabetes will be reflected in disability payments, pensions, social and medical service costs, and revenue. Ministries of Finance may have to divert resources from other areas to pay for diabetes care if nothing is done to prevent diabetes and curb the epidemic.  

Ministries of Health, private health insurers, and employers will face the spiralling costs of treating the growing number of people with diabetes. Resources are also likely to be diverted from other diseases because of the growing need for diabetes care.

Diabetes can be effectively managed, its impact reduced and its onset in many cases delayed or even prevented completely. Although type 1 diabetes is not preventable, up to 80% of type 2 diabetes may be preventable by improving the living environment. This includes dietary changes and increased physical activity. For governments to create these opportunities for change across Europe, they will need to implement a whole-of-government approach that goes beyond healthcare agencies alone. For this reason, IDF recently launched the ‘Unite for Diabetes’ campaign, which seeks to obtain a United Nations Resolution on diabetes by the end of 2007.

Professor Martin Silink, President-Elect of IDF, who leads the campaign for the Resolution demands appropriate action now: “The international community needs to start taking the diabetes epidemic seriously. We must join forces in our fight against diabetes, otherwise we will jeopardize the health and lives of millions. Despite its alarming human toll, claiming as many lives as HIV/AIDS, there is an extraordinary lack of awareness of the global scale of the diabetes threat.”

The ‘Unite for Diabetes’ campaign aims to gain support from governments worldwide for a United Nations Resolution on diabetes in order to raise awareness of the disease and improve diabetes care globally. Governments from across Eastern Europe, such as Slovenia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Georgia have indicated their support for a UN Resolution on diabetes.

Drawing on the soon-to-be-released data, Professor Silink called for Governments across the European region to add their support to countries already signing their support for the UN Resolution: “Diabetes is emerging fast as one of the biggest health catastrophes the world has ever seen. The diabetes epidemic will overwhelm healthcare resources everywhere if governments do not wake up and take action now. The disease will hit hardest in the lesser developed countries. On behalf of the hundreds of the millions of people living with diabetes across Europe and the organizations that represent them, the global diabetes community urges Europe to play a leading role and support the United Nations Resolution on diabetes.”


1, 2, 4:  Diabetes Atlas third edition, International Diabetes Federation 2006 (in print)
3: Diabetes Atlas second edition, International Diabetes Federation 2003
5: Preventing Chronic Diseases: a vital investment, WHO, 2005

For further information, please contact Anne Pierson, IDF Press Events Manager (office +322 5431623, mobile +32475 343788, or Kerrita McClaughlyn, IDF Media Relations Coordinator (office +322 5431639, mobile +32487 530 625,  

Note to Editors
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is an umbrella organization of over 190 member associations in more than 150 countries, representing millions of people with diabetes, their families, and their healthcare providers. The mission of the IDF is to promote diabetes care, prevention and a cure worldwide. It does this through education for people with diabetes and healthcare professionals, public awareness campaigns and the promotion of the free exchange of diabetes knowledge. IDF leads the Unite for Diabetes campaign. For information about the campaign visit