Joining forces to enable access to essential prevention and care services for people with diabetes and TB

World Diabetes Day

Diabetic patients pass around a carbohydrate counting chart during a diet education session at Rainbow Specialist Medical Center in Lekki, Lagos.

Today marks World Diabetes Day and this year’s theme is “access to diabetes education”, which underpins the larger multi-year theme of “access to care”. The theme highlights the importance of empowering individuals and communities with the right information to help improve the lives of close to half a billion people living with diabetes worldwide. People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing tuberculosis (TB), and of poor TB treatment outcomes. Access to education on diabetes will therefore help increase awareness and improve the quality of life for people and families affected by diabetes and TB.

Diabetes is among five key drivers of the global TB epidemic, and WHO’s latest Global TB Report estimates that diabetes contributed to as much as half a million people falling ill with TB in 2021. Furthermore, TB is associated with glucose intolerance and hyperglycaemia. According to estimates by the International Diabetes Federation, the prevalence of diabetes will almost double in high TB burden countries between 2019 and 2045, with implications for the TB epidemic and response in these settings, and globally.

To improve integrated care for people with TB and comorbidities, including diabetes, WHO recently released the Framework for Collaborative Action on TB and comorbidities. The framework includes actions to improve collaboration across health programmes and across sectors for delivering people-centred services.

“Efforts to increase access to comprehensive care for people with TB and diabetes will help improve quality of life and save lives” remarked the Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme, Dr Tereza Kasaeva. “We encourage countries to strengthen collaboration across programmes to ensure integrated care for people affected by both diseases.”

The Framework builds on key commitments made by Member States to combat TB and diabetes. In 2018, at the United Nations High Level Meeting on TB, Member States committed to addressing the determinants of TB, and to assuring integrated care for people with TB and diabetes, in the context of universal health coverage. At the 2022 World Health Assembly, Member States also endorsed ambitious targets to be achieved by 2030, including that 80% of people with diabetes are diagnosed and that 80% achieve good control of glycaemia. Achievement of these targets will also contribute to ending the TB epidemic.

Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director of WHO’s Department for Noncommunicable Diseases emphasised, “As we mark World Diabetes Day, we need to remember that diabetes is a key driver of the TB epidemic and a risk factor for many other infections. Prevention and effective management of diabetes will therefore prevent TB, as well as unnecessary suffering and death.”

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