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World Health Day 2016: Beat Diabetes

World-Health-DayWHO (World Health Organisation) is focusing World Health Day on 7 April 2016, on diabetes to promote diabetes awareness and advocacy. To mark the occasion, here’s a report from United Nations from IPS on the chronic disease.

Corporations marketing unhealthy foods to poorer consumers are being challenged for their role in the growing global burden of diseases like diabetes.

Over 340 million people are living with diabetes, and the World Health Organization predicts the number of people who die from diabetes each year will double between 2005 and 2030.

Being poor also puts you at risk in countries like Indonesia where soda companies actually purposely market to poorer marginalised people with lower levels of education.” — Dr Alessandro Demaio

Dr Alessandro Demaio, a postdoctoral fellow in global health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at Harvard University, told IPS that there is a clear link between poverty, diabetes and the marketing tactics used by junk food and soda companies (which thrives on the soda habit of drinking carbonated, caffeinated, sugared, or artificially sweetened beverages).

“We know that globally about 80 percent of diabetes occurs in low- and middle-income countries, and we also know that in rich countries like Australia, the UK and the US, the worst affected populations are those who are most marginalised and impoverished,” Demaio said.

Diabetes is both a cause and consequence of poverty, Demaio said. “Diabetes care in a country like Vietnam or Malawi can cost 70 percent of a person’s income. We should remember that being poor also puts you at risk in countries like Indonesia where soda companies actually purposely market to poorer marginalised people with lower levels of education.”

Soda companies’ role in contributing to the diabetes burden is being challenged with the introduction of soda taxes in Mexico and Berkeley, California.

Demaio agrees that addressing lifestyle diseases such as diabetes should involve taxing unhealthy foods and drinks.

“We’re going to need to look at taxing things like soda, the foods that we know cause disease, we need to make them less affordable but we need to use that money to make other healthier foods more affordable.

Diabetes and Poverty

Demaio also told IPS that low and middle-income countries are struggling to keep up with the rapid change in the health challenges they are facing.

Middle income countries like China and India are among the worst affected: 13 percent of China’s population now has diabetes compared with only one percent in 1980.

Demaio said that this is an outcome of the globalisation of the food system and the loss of food related resilience.

He says that many people have now lost the resilience, that is the ability to be able to cook, to know what is in season, to be able to choose foods that make sense based on where you are geographically.

This loss of food resilience impacts not only people’s diets and health, but also has environmental and cultural consequences.

Highly processed foods that are transported long distances are more environmentally damaging than food that is local, in season, cheaper, healthier and fresher, Demaio said.

This also contributes to a loss of food culture as  “a single homogenised food culture is spreading around the world, replacing traditional diets and traditional food practices.

“We are a global community, this is a global problem, they are global companies, and these are global determinants of health. That’s the way that we need to see this challenge.” Demaio said. – IPS full report @ 

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