There has been a dramatic rise in the amount of people type 2 diabetes throughout the world due to longer life expectancy, obesity, and sedentary lifestyles. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes can be seen especially in developing countries such as India. In fact India hosts an estimated 35 million people with diabetes – the largest in the world – accounting for 8% of the total adult population.
From a scientific perspective, the question that needs to be asked is why diabetes is so prevalent in India. The answer is multifaceted with genetic factors, environmental influence like obesity typically associated with an increase in living standard and changes in socio-economic status causing the migration from rural India to more urban areas.
In fact there are patterns displaying the geographical distribution of diabetes in India; rough estimates show that the distribution of diabetes in rural areas is a quarter of urban populations for India and related subcontinent countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Studies performed by the Indian Council of Medical Research revealed that areas of Northern India had a lower distribution of diabetes in the population.
Although diabetes is less prevalent in the rural population, diabetes treatment including screening, medication and education is also less available. The disproportionate allocation of medical resources, lack of education and illiteracy between urban and rural areas may be a cause of improper diabetes screening and preventive care services. This then results in patients not following diabetes management/protocol.
There are a number of other challenges that plague diabetes care in India such as lack of HbA1c test which determines the amount of glucose concentration in the blood. The unavailability of this test prevents proper insulin treatment for diabetes. Additionally, there is no consistency regarding Indian guidelines for diabetes treatment resulting in a wide variation of treatments across the country.
In India, diabetes continues to grow to epidemic proportions affecting family and society. Many factors are a cause of the increase in diabetes such as the migration from rural to urban areas, the economic boom and the related lifestyle changes but despite the prevalence of diabetes, there remains an insufficient amount of studies to investigate the details of the disease within the country, with geographical, socioeconomic and ethnic background playing a large role. The disease has become highly visible across all areas of society within India creating an urgent demand for research and intervention at regional and national levels In order to reduce the long term affects the disease will have in the future.