September 28, 2010 – (BRONX, NY) More than 50 congressional staffers and representatives from the American Diabetes Association, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Center for Disease Control and others attended a Washington, D.C. information briefing on Monday, September 27th aimed at raising awareness of the growing global diabetes epidemic. The event was hosted by the Global Diabetes Initiative (GDI) of Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.
Meredith Hawkins, M.D.“We were delighted by the level of interest and engagement,” said Meredith Hawkins, M.D., professor of medicine and director of GDI at Einstein. “This was definitely a success in terms of raising awareness and energizing people around the issue. It was also a really valuable opportunity for us to partner with the Global Diabetes Alliance and speak in one voice about collaborative goals.”
Incidence of diabetes is increasing worldwide at a rate that eclipses most other diseases. The World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2030, more than 366 million people will be suffering from diabetes, 10 times the number affected by HIV/AIDS. Of that 366 million, more than 298 million will live in developing countries.
"In the developing world, there are tremendous barriers to addressing the global diabetes epidemic,” said Meredith Hawkins, M.D. Dr. Hawkins, who has travelled globally treating diabetes patients. “There's a lack of awareness by the general population, a lack of knowledge by healthcare providers on how to treat the disease, and no coordinated healthcare policy that would make screening, treatment, and prevention a priority. There are also practical limitations including access to clinical care settings, few resources for treatment and poorly developed healthcare infrastructure to support chronic and acute treatment. However, despite these grave challenges, the consequences of doing nothing are dire."
Paul Robertson, M.D., Director, Global Diabetes Alliance; Meredith Hawkins, M.D., Director, Global Diabetes Initiative; Mahmoud Ibrahim, M.D., Director, Egyptian Diabetes Center; Nihal Thomas, M.D, Professor, Christian Medical College, Vellore, IndiaThrough her extensive diabetes field work in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, Dr. Hawkins has observed many different forms of diabetes including a mysterious and under-recognized form – one that is linked to starvation and malnutrition. “People on the ground, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and India, say they are seeing many more cases of diabetes among young and lean individuals compared to 20 years ago,” said Dr. Hawkins. This ‘malnutrition diabetes’ is often misdiagnosed as type 1 diabetes, leading to ineffective and often fatal treatments. And it's believed to affect large numbers of children and young adults in the developing world.
"So little is known about malnutrition diabetes,” said Dr. Hawkins, “but it's very clear that what we're seeing is not Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. This is a debilitating, poorly understood form of the disease that strikes those with poor nutrition -- many of them children. We desperately need more research to understand why it occurs, and more research resources to develop effective and practical treatments."
The congressional briefing was presented jointly by the Global Diabetes Initiative and the Global Diabetes Alliance. Dr. Hawkins was joined by Dr. Nihal Thomas, professor at Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, which has developed several highly effective diabetes outreach programs, Dr. Paul Robertson, director of the Global Diabetes Alliance and Dr. Mahmoud Ibrahim, director of the Egyptian Diabetes Center.