China may be an economic superpower, but diabetes is taking away some of that wealth.
Approximately 13% of the country’s total medical expenditures—totaling 173.4 billion Renminbi, or $25 million (U.S.)—is spent on the condition, according to a new report from the Chinese Diabetes Society (CDS) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF),
The report, based on preliminary data from a survey of 5,000 people at 12 sites, also documented that health expenditures for people in China who have had diabetes for 10 or more years are 460% higher than for those who have had the condition for just 1 to 2 years.
Of the survey respondents with diabetes, 89% reported having health insurance. However, they spent 11% of their income on medical care — 9 times more than did those of the same age and sex who didn’t have diabetes.
The CDS/IDF survey is a followup to a study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that the prevalence of diabetes in China was 9.7% of the total population, or 92.4 million adults. Another 148.2 million adults in the country were found to have prediabetes, the China National Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders Study Group reported.
Diabetes threatens China’s prosperity, IDF executive director Ann Keeling said in September. “One in 10 people in China now has diabetes. They’re getting it in their 40’s and 50’s, the most productive years. In a generation, there will be cities full of sick people and a sick workforce. It has huge implications for competitiveness.”
The Chinese Ministry of Health recognizes the problem. This year it has introduced several new education and awareness programs, including a three-year project to train 100,000 community-level physicians across the country in diabetes prevention and treatment, a Web-based learning platform for diabetes training expected to attract over 400,000 subscribers a year, and a glucose management training program aimed at 1,000 community-based healthcare providers.
Also, BRIDGES, a $400,000 research project run by the IDF in the city of Tianjin, aims to translate a proven gestational diabetes care protocol into routine obstetric practice.
“Help is needed from both inside and outside the country to prevent and control diabetes in China,” CDS president Professor Linong Ji said in an IDF statement.
—Miriam E. Tucker (@MiriamETucker on Twitter)