Industrial Complex

The Diabetes Industrial Complex

An objective look at the global burden of disease might lead you to conclude that the diabetes industrial complex is destined to dominate public health worldwide. It’s a bit of a good news, bad news story. Around the world, infectious diseases are being controlled, they are claiming fewer lives, and thus people are living longer. But as a result, the health burden of chronic diseases is growing dramatically.

The global burden of disability from diabetes has more than doubled since 1990 — outpacing every other major cause of disability in the world.

A new report published this week in Lancet lays out these numbers. Since 1990, diabetes prevalence has risen 45% around the world, 71% in the U.S., and 56% in China — which now virtually matches the U.S. on the rate of diabetes. Saudi Arabia leads the world in diabetes prevalence with almost three times the rate seen in the U.S.

At the same time, health systems are scrambling to adapt and better care for people with diabetes. Though we can’t cure diabetes, the technology to manage it and the systems for delivering that technology are expanding rapidly. Drugs, devices, and clinical protocols are getting better all the time. The diabetes industrial complex is growing and benefiting the growing population of people living with diabetes. People are living longer and better lives as a result.

Driving much this growth in diabetes is growth in the rate of obesity. And though systems for reducing the health impact of diabetes have grown more elaborate and effective, progress in managing the chronic disease of obesity is not coming nearly so fast.

The diabetes industrial complex serves a real human need increasingly well. But people are starting to realize that developing better care for the underlying cause of these trends — obesity — might yield even greater benefits.

Click here to read the study in Lancet and here to read more from the New York Times.

Industrial Complex, photograph © Issey Niwa / flickr

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2 Responses to “The Diabetes Industrial Complex”

  1. June 14, 2015 at 3:09 pm, Miriam Gordon said:

    Obesity is a symptom of insulin resistance. Calling obesity a disease is like calling coughing a disease caused by the symptom of whooping cough.

    And while we’re at it, let’s call a spade a spade: The entire “industrial complex” of Western civilization is manipulating people to eat what tastes good and makes them sick, rather than what’s good for them, because it makes the “industrial complex” very, very wealthy. The human body is the gift that keeps on giving – to the “industrial complex.” Manipulative marketing and conveniently blaming the target of the marketing for the problems they acquire in response are the real problems.

    No one has to take my word for this. Take a look at what Dr. Kelly Brownell, former director of the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and current Dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, has to say on these matters.

    • June 14, 2015 at 4:38 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks Miriam, for sharing your view.