Since 1991 World Diabetes Day has been raising awareness about diabetes throughout the world. In 2004, the theme for World Diabetes Day is Fight Obesity - Prevent Diabetes. There is solid evidence that obesity is now one of the most significant risks to global health. The obesity epidemic is well documented in developed countries. Although there is less information from developing countries, emerging data indicate a similar pattern of increasing prevalence of obesity within a relatively short period of time.
In its World Health Report of 2002, WHO estimated that obesity and physical inactivity contribute at least two-thirds of the burden of type 2 diabetes. The number of persons with diabetes in the world is swiftly approaching 200 million, and a vast majority have type 2 diabetes. By controlling obesity we can contribute significantly to preventing diabetes, a result that also benefits those with the condition, as it leaves health systems better able to cope with a smaller number of people with diabetes.
Until now, the public health approach to overnutrition and physical inactivity has largely been based on emphasizing the need for individuals to change their behaviour. Whilst well meaning, this approach has not been sufficient to address the challenges we face and it has become clear that a different and global response is necessary in the face of this worldwide epidemic. A coherent policy framework encompassing legislation, regulation and education is necessary to create environmental changes that allow and encourage people to make healthy choices. At the request of its member states, the World Health Organization has developed the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. The strategy builds upon the evidence, best practices and experience in controlling lifestyle-related diseases, and concludes that a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach is warranted. At the World Health Assembly in May 2004, Member States endorsed the Global Strategy and supported the lead taken by WHO in the prevention and control of chronic diseases. The next step is the development of a framework for implementing the strategy in different countries according to their needs.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is an important partner in the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. It was instrumental in encouraging support for the adoption of the strategy, and will be a critical force in ensuring its implementation throughout the world. World Diabetes Day 2004, urging us all to Fight Obesity - Prevent Diabetes, will be an important contribution.