The costs of caring for a massive rise in people with diabetes could bankrupt the NHS, says Dr James Brown of Aston University on World Diabetes Day.
According to Dr Brown, recent increases in levels of childhood obesity closely parallel a rise in type 2 diabetes among younger people, and government must act now to prevent further escalation.
“Type 2 diabetes used to be prevalent only in adults but it is now becoming increasingly common in children and young people. This is undoubtedly linked to the childhood obesity epidemic in this country – one in five children aged 11 years old is obese – which puts them at increased risk of developing diabetes in their early adult life. This, in turn, increases their likelihood of suffering from a wide range of life-threatening illnesses, such as heart attacks and kidney disease, in middle age.
“The implications for the NHS cannot be underestimated. Ten per cent of its budget is already spent on the condition and the illnesses associated with it, and – with the number of diabetes sufferers set to almost double by 2030 – it is not at all clear that our health service will be able to cope with the rising costs.”
Dr Brown added that a series of definitive measures must be taken by the government to mitigate the rate at which childhood obesity rises in the UK.
“The Government’s current childhood obesity strategy falls well short of achieving what is needed if we are to prevent type 2 diabetes becoming the disease that defines an entire generation.
“Primary legislation needs to be put in place to ensure that children do a minimum amount of daily exercise in school. Food and drink companies must be prevented by law from advertising sugary products to children, and must also be required to meet mandatory targets on how much sugar they add to their products. Unhealthy foods should be heavily taxed and the revenue this generates should be directed towards increasing the availability of fruit and vegetables and supporting diabetes prevention programmes.
“These measures may seem radical, but they comprise the very minimum that needs to be done if we are to have any chance of tackling the disastrous consequences of diabetes in the UK.”