14 November is World Diabetes Day

By Dr Au Eong Kah Guan, Medical Director and Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist, International Eye Cataract Retina Centre at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre and Farrer Park Medical Centre, Singapore

World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and World Health Organisation in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes mellitus. World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations Day in 2006. It is marked every year on 14 November, the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting who co-discovered insulin together with Charles Best in 1922.

World Diabetes Day is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over 1 billion people in more than 160 countries. The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public and political spotlight.


One in nine (11%) Singaporean adults aged 18-69 is diabetic. Among older Singaporeans, the prevalence if even higher. In fact, Singapore has one of the highest prevalence of diabetes among developed countries, second only to the United States.

Indians have the highest prevalence of diabetes in Singapore. 17.2% of adult Indians have diabetes compared to 16.6% in Malays and 9.7% in Chinese.

Over 400,000 Singaporeans have diabetes today. Of these, one in three cases have yet to be diagnosed. Among those who have been diagnosed, one in three have poor control of their condition.

Diabetes costs Singaporeans adults more than S$1 billion annually. This estimate takes into account medical costs and indirect costs such as productivity loss due to absenteeism, premature mortality and non-participation in the workforce. The figure could rise to over S$2.5 billion in 2050.

With one-third of Singaporeans likely to have diabetes in their lifetime, the Singapore government declared war on diabetes in 2016. The condition is being tackled in a national strategy that range from promoting good eating habits and exercise to children, to encouraging early screening and better disease management.


Over 425 million people are currently living with diabetes. Most of these cases are type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable through regular physical activity, a healthy and balanced diet, and the promotion of healthy living environments.

1 in 2 people currently living with type 2 diabetes is undiagnosed. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing the complications of diabetes and achieve healthy outcomes.

Diabetes can be expensive for the individual and family. In many countries, the cost of insulin injection and daily monitoring alone can consume half of a family’s average disposable income, and regular and affordable access to essential diabetes medicines are out of reach for too many. Improving access to affordable diabetes medicines and care is therefore urgent to avoid increased costs for the individual and family, which impact on health outcomes.

Less than 1 in 4 family members have access to diabetes education programmes. Family support in diabetes care has been shown to have a substantial effect in improving health outcomes for people with diabetes. It is therefore important that ongoing diabetes self-management education and support be accessible to all people with diabetes and their families to reduce the emotional impact of the disease that can result in a poor quality of life.

Don’t lose sight of diabetes. Make a commitment to health today. Get yourself and your love ones screened for diabetes.