Nov 14
November 14, 2013

Dr. Martin Abrahamson, M.D.

Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs, Joslin Diabetes Center; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Addressing the Diabetes Pandemic


Over a century ago, Dr. Elliot P. Joslin, believed that the key to managing diabetes lay with patient involvement, education, and empowerment. Even before the discovery of insulin in 1922, Dr. Joslin foresaw the astounding epidemic of diabetes and the fact that if patients controlled their diabetes well, they could live longer, more meaningful lives. We’ve seen the number of patients with type 2 diabetes (which accounts for more than 90% of the cases of diabetes) rapidly increase in both developed and developing countries.  This epidemic is caused to a large extent by obesity and physical inactivity., In the United States alone, 25.8 million children and adults—8.3% of the population—currently have diabetes and another 79 million have pre-diabetes (CDC, 2011).  More than 360 million people worldwide have diabetes and this number is expected to exceed 550 million by 2030.  And what’s more another 418 million people will have impaired glucose intolerance (also commonly referred to as pre-diabetes). In addition to the adverse physical and emotional effects associated with this chronic disease, its economic costs are staggering.  In 2012 in the USA the costs attributed to diabetes were $ 245 billion—by 2030 the global economic burden is expected to reach $490 billion.

Today, the Joslin Diabetes Center (Joslin), is the world’s largest provider of diabetes-focused clinical care, research, and education. We are at the forefront of the fight against this growing pandemic – our mission is to prevent, treat and cure diabetes.  While we await the cure, our goal is to help as many people as possible control their diabetes and for those at risk, to prevent diabetes developing. 

Each year we hold a conference to foster discussion and develop innovative approaches to managing and preventing diabetes in our society.  In October we held Diabetes Innovation 2013, where we proudly announced that we will be working with Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) to boost efforts to prevent diabetes, to improve treatment quality, and to reduce costs for those with the disease and its related conditions and complications. As part of the Commitment to Action we made with CHMI, we will work to bring other organizations and partners together and help CHMI cultivate commitments specifically focused on diabetes prevention and treatment by leveraging our resources.

We are already working with other organizations and individuals to spur innovative solutions to address this issue. At our conference, I joined Rain Henderson, Deputy Director of CHMI, to announce one of CHMI’s newest commitment makers related to diabetes prevention and management, Novo Nordisk. Headquartered in Denmark, Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. Novo Nordisk is developing a multi-faceted commitment that will advocate for updates to the USPSTF guidelines and provide no-cost screening to high-risk individuals in the short term and partner with the national YMCA to expand the National Diabetes Prevention Program in the long term. 

Through our Commitment to Action, we will provide a supportive infrastructure for Novo Nordisk and other organizations to expand their efforts in the fight against diabetes.   We encourage others to join this united effort with us.  We are confident that our joint efforts with CHMI will result in many more similar commitments that will continue to propel us toward our ­­vision of a world free of diabetes and its complications.