It is an honor to serve as the 75th President, Medicine & Science, of the American Diabetes Association, an organization I have been involved with for 25 years. You know about our efforts to Stop Diabetes® in the United States, but did you know we’re also involved in diabetes research and education around the world? There are many good reasons for this, and it’s something I would like to shine a light on during my year as President.
The global prevalence of diabetes is estimated to increase from 382 million in 2013 to 592 million in 2035. Sadly, low- and middle-economy countries are projected to experience the steepest increase. These same countries have limited resources to deal with the costs of controlling diabetes and its complications, such as blindness, kidney disease and lower-limb amputations. And measures known to help prevent type 2 diabetes, such as dietary and exercise intervention, are not actively promoted there.
Meanwhile, the world has become exponentially more connected. Scientific and medical information can spread many times faster than it used to. This is where the American Diabetes Association—and sister organizations such as the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, Endocrine Society, European Association for the Study of Diabetes and International Diabetes Federation—can help. The world looks to us to establish definitions, diagnostic criteria and best practices, as well as to set the tone and pace for research.
Let’s start with research. Throughout our history, the Association has funded young, brilliant minds (the newer Pathway to Stop Diabetes program is an excellent example of this legacy). And our mentored fellowship programs are unique because they are open to people all over the world, not just Americans. We’ve broadened the workforce of people involved in diabetes research—people who may otherwise have chosen other paths. We must continue to build this pipeline of researchers dedicated to our cause.
From research we move on to diabetes management. I would like to expand the “Best of ADA” program based on our Standards of Medical Care by educating thousands of health professionals in Africa, Asia, Middle East and South and Central America. This will help grow the pool of local talent for diabetes education and care delivery.
Last but not least, I would also like to start a conversation on how life-saving diabetes medications can be made affordable to patients with limited resources. We share a planet full of inequalities, and this is no more poignant than in the example of access to insulin. In the United States, it’s easy to take things like insulin, test strips and A1C tests for granted (though many Americans struggle to obtain these, too). But for people in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, a single vial of insulin may cost as much as their annual income. And forget about test strips, blood glucose meters or regular endocrinologist visits.
It’s tragic that these tools for optimizing diabetes management are not more available. It will take novel international partnerships to make this happen among underserved communities in the United States and across the globe, but it must be a priority.
How can YOU help? The Association is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. We celebrate discovery, innovation and progress that have taken place since 1940, and we won’t rest until diabetes is rendered obsolete.
This mission requires resources. Please support our research, advocacy, education and awareness efforts at home and abroad. Consider a $75 donation ($1 for each year of the Association’s existence) in honor of this milestone and on behalf of those you love and the millions of people facing this disease.
Americans have roots all over the world, and I believe we have an obligation to help others in less-developed countries. Stopping diabetes needs to be a collective human effort. We don’t know where the cure for diabetes will be discovered, but it is only a matter of time before this disease succumbs to the overwhelming force of science.
When we think and act globally, the benefits are beyond imagination.
Samuel Dagogo-Jack, MD
President, Medicine & Science, 2015
American Diabetes Association