Meeting the diabetes challenge (Guest blog)

Diabetes is one of the greatest and misunderstood health challenges Europe faces today. It is an emergency hiding in plain sight. Ιn Europe today, 1 in 11 adults lives with diabetes, or an eye-opening 61m people total. Every 8 seconds … someone in the world dies of a diabetes related condition.
Diabetes presents a huge burden – to the individuals affected and their families, to health systems, and to society at large. Strong and decisive policy action is clearly needed to address the diabetes crisis. That is why, over the course of the past year, the European Diabetes Forum (EUDF) convened experts from across the diabetes landscape – healthcare professionals, researchers, industry representatives, and people with diabetes – to advance fresh ideas and solutions to enhance the quality of diabetes care, and to improve health outcomes and quality of life for all those living with diabetes.  

The EUDF Strategic Forums have developed specific, achievable policy recommendations in three key areas – integrated care, data and registries, and digitalisation. The EUDF focused on these three topics for essentially pragmatic reasons.

Spearheading solutions in integrated care, registries, and digitalisation will promote a more data-driven and person-centric approach to healthcare and diabetes management, that should pay off in terms of fewer complications, improved quality of life and more efficient use of clinical resources.

First, there’s integrated care. Diabetes poses unique challenges. It is a complex, chronic condition, one that can be difficult to manage. That is why we must rethink and redesign care in ways that are better suited to the needs of people with diabetes. To that end, the EUDF has outlined pragmatic strategies to improve integrated care in all care settings, including implementing assessment models, developing patient centred pathways for diabetes care, revamping educational curricula, and putting incentives in place to encourage cooperation and teamwork within and between primary and secondary care settings.

Second, implementing diabetes registries will help unlock the vast potential of data and enable a more evidence-based approach to diabetes management. Policymakers, health authorities, healthcare professionals, industry, and people with diabetes must work together to advance the development of registries throughout Europe where they do not exist, or to expand and strengthen those where they do. The EUDF has set out recommendations - on the governance of registries, on procedural aspects like data input or the indicators that should be included, and implementation strategies – to help make this happen.

Finally, digitalisation and self-care. It is essential to hand people with diabetes with the knowledge and tools they need to better manage their condition. Smartphones have long become integrated into peoples’ day-to-day lives, an integral part of the way people work, shop, and socialise. Why should that not be the case for helping people navigate diabetes as well? Here, digital tools including mobile apps can serve as the patient-facing interface for digitally enabled care. Many countries in the EU are already starting to devise policy solutions to support health and diabetes apps. The EUDF forum hopes to accelerate this process with recommendations on developing a user-centred app, implementing a best practice access pathway for apps, and supporting the integration and uptake of high-quality apps into the health ecosystem.

Turning the tide on diabetes
The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with diabetes has shone a spotlight on the severity of the crisis. That can no longer go ignored.  

But there are grounds for optimism. We have proven strategies and tools at our disposal that can turn the tide on the diabetes epidemic, if only we can generate the political and social will to deploy them.

The time to act is now. We can save and improve lives, and ease the burden on health systems, with solutions in integrated care, registries, and digitalisation.

The EUDF will continue to serve as an expert partner to promote these efforts, acting as a forum for a collaborative campaign for policy change. Our vision is to achieve better outcomes for people with diabetes and enable health care systems to cope with a devastating epidemic that can no longer be swept aside.

Bart Torbeyns

Bart Torbeyns is Executive Director at European Diabetes Forum - EUDF.
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