By Barry Eitel
SAN FRANCISCO (AA) – More than 500 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes and previous statistics could underestimate its prevalence by as much as 25 percent, according to a new study released Monday.
The study’s authors, who hail from the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, believe serious gaps in global knowledge about diabetes have caused the disparity. Surveys of diabetes patients in developing countries and indigenous populations are especially inaccurate, scientists believe.
The International Diabetes Federation estimated in 2015 that there were 415 million people worldwide with the disease. An international team of scientists said Monday that the actual figure could be as high as 520 million – roughly 7 percent of the global population.
Researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Monash University in Australia and Imperial College London collaborated on the study that was published in the journal Nature Reviews. The team believes the new estimates should jolt world governments into action.
“Until the past decade, [diabetes] has been seriously underrated as a global health threat,” the researchers comment in the study’s abstract. “Major gaps exist in efforts to comprehend the burden nationally and globally, especially in developing nations, due to a lack of accurate data for monitoring and surveillance.”
As a starting point, the researchers claim that international organizations and governments should set worldwide standards for reporting on diabetes so that medical professionals can have more accurate knowledge about the disease.
“Existing international efforts to assemble information fall far short of requirements,” the researchers continue. “Current estimates are imprecise, only providing a rough picture, and probably underestimate the disease burden.”
Even though global statistics are inaccurate, the study claims, diabetes is costing billions of dollars. More than 12 percent of global health expenditure is spent on the condition, the authors say, adding that diabetes is now “one of the largest chronic disease epidemics in human history.”