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The global response to diabetes: action or apathy?

Hands up everyone who thinks the United Nations is weak and ineffectual and the World Health Organization is risk-averse and unresponsive?

While both organisations were slow to arrive at their current position on diabetes and its partners in crime — cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases — recent developments indicate that those with raised hands may need to rethink. Certainly, many programs following the 1989 World Health Assembly resolution on the prevention and control of diabetes1 had little political buy-in. Nonetheless, the resolution left a legacy of WHO and International Diabetes Federation (IDF) cooperation on regional declarations that encouraged political commitment and national action on diabetes and seeded a new approach to the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). This and subsequent civil society action, including the 2006 UN resolution designating 14 November as World Diabetes Day,2 were instrumental in shaking political apathy and alerting the world to the threat of NCDs.

The current UN response

The global policy response to diabetes is inextricably linked with cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory diseases and, in 2011, the UN General Assembly held a high-level meeting on NCDs. This resulted in all 193 member states signing a Political Declaration that set out policy…