Let’s put the evidence into practice
‘At least one of your neighbours, one of your children’s school friends or someone who you see on the bus to work every day might be suffering from the consequences of diabetes milletus. In order to reverse this alarming trend, what we need is a behavioural change.’ Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, encourages member states to deploy all tools at their disposal, ranging from education to awareness campaigns and from advertising to taxation and town planning, to reduce the prevalence of the deadly disease
According to the World Health Organisation, from 1980 to 2015 the number of adults living with diabetes rose from 153 million to 415 million. By 2030, diabetes is expected to be the 8th leading cause of death worldwide. It is, therefore, no wonder that this year’s World Health Day was dedicated to a disease that is increasing so dramatically in prevalence.
Currently, in the European Union, nearly 30 million people are living with diabetes. More than just a number, this translates on average to at least one of your neighbours, one of your children’s school friends or someone who you see on the bus to work every day suffering from the consequences of this disease.
But every cloud has a silver lining. Firstly, in many cases type 2 diabetes is preventable. Secondly, it is also possible to reverse it.
Experience has shown that simple changes in lifestyle can be effective in preventing or delaying diabetes type 2. These include maintaining a normal weight, regular physical exercise, and a healthy diet.
We need behavioural change. One in five school children is obese or overweight already, and this number is on the rise. Unless we start raising a generation where healthy food and physical activity are ingrained in habit from a young age, we will raise a generation of children who are ‘fat for life,’ and therefore at greater risk of developing a number of preventable diseases.
To foster healthy habits, we need to create conditions that make healthy food and physical exercise easily available and affordable to everybody, and unhealthy options less accessible.
To succeed in this endeavour, I encourage member states to deploy all tools at their disposal across policies ranging from education to awareness campaigns and from advertising to taxation and town planning. If we want our children to eat well, we need to provide healthy food in schools, get rid of vending machines selling sweets or sugary drinks in schools, make food low in salt, sugar, and fat.
Naturally, we must also continue addressing Type 1 diabetes. Here, I am working towards more concrete actions to improve the lives of people living with diabetes by increasing patient access to quality care across Europe and supporting research for finding new and more effective treatments.
New eHealth solutions enable, for example, diabetic patients to monitor their own blood glucose, transmitting the information electronically to their healthcare specialist.
eHealth being one of the 10 domains identified by the Commission as key priorities of standardisation, I will make it my personal priority to continue this work with my colleagues in the Commission, our stakeholders and member states, to maximise the potential of eHealth solutions.
I am the Commissioner for Health not the Commissioner for Sickness. Therefore my deepest wish is to see a radical shift from treatment of diseases towards promotion of good health. We have solid evidence that this works. I need your help to put this evidence in practice.