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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – November 24, 2003: Diabetes in Developing Countries - 2003-11-23

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

The World Health Organization says it expects two times as many cases of diabetes in developing countries within thirty years. Developing countries had one-hundred-fifteen million diabetics in two-thousand, or two out of three cases worldwide. In two-thousand-thirty that share is expected to be three out of four cases.

The W-H-O is working with the International Diabetes Federation to fight the increase. It says many cases could be prevented by better nutrition and more physical activity.

The W-H-O released its report for the yearly observance of World Diabetes Day on November fourteenth. That is the birthday of Canadian scientist Frederick Banting. He and his assistant Charles Best did research that led to the discovery of insulin in nineteen-twenty-one.

People with diabetes have too much of a sugar called glucose in their blood. Glucose levels rise when the body cannot produce insulin, or cannot use this hormone correctly. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin. Insulin helps glucose enter cells to use as fuel.

There are two kinds of diabetes. Type One is usually found in children and young people. It results when the body’s own defense system destroys cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.

In Type Two diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin, but the body is not able to use it. This kind of diabetes usually appears in adults. But doctors also see it increasingly in overweight children. About ninety percent of all cases of diabetes worldwide are Type Two.

Experts warn about the economic costs of an increase in diabetes. The W-H-O estimates that countries now spend up to fifteen percent of their yearly health care budgets on this disease. Then there is also the amount of money lost in worker productivity.

Diabetes is often linked to a high-fat diet and little exercise. But health officials say it no longer affects mostly rich nations.

People with diabetes can often control it through better nutrition, more physical exercise and the use of medicine.

The World Health Organization is developing what it calls a Global Strategy on Diet and Physical Activity. It says this plan will support its efforts to help countries prevent diabetes and other diseases related to unhealthy diets and lack of activity.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.