Eighty per cent of people with diabetes in the world live in developing countries, where the number of people with diabetes is predicted to increase by 150% in the next 25 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Even in the next ten years, diabetes deaths will increase 50% without urgent action. And the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that 3.8 million people died as a result of diabetes in 2007. This is more than deaths from HIV/AIDS and nearly four times the deaths from malaria.
And yet the WHO - and to a greater extent the developing countries themselves - are struggling to deal with the problem, as with other chronic diseases in the developing world, with tiny resources and very little relevant research. WHO headquarters itself has but one expert devoted to diabetes – partly a reflection of the interests of the major donors.
So in this context, what should Europe be doing for developing countries, in supporting research for diabetes?
EAGLES investigations into the specific needs for diabetes research in developing countries, and Europe’s potential to support that research, reach nine major conclusions.
In each case, they involve tuning European research to have the greatest impact in the shortest possible time, by understanding and respecting developing countries’ conditions of health, politics and economics.
Major recommendations arise from the lack of national population based epidemiology to enable planning and convince political powers of the need for action; from countries’ low health care budgets – entailing needs for the cheapest possible interventions; from the need to investigate interventions specifically tuned to national circumstances; and finally from the needs for specific local biomedical research, such as studies into the several unique African phenotypes of the disease.
The details of our nine recommendations can be seen at the end of the report.