Last week’s column claimed, “Wars are too important to be left to generals.” And “the type 2 diabetes pandemic is too important to be left to doctors.” We asked whether there was a difference between millions of North Americans dying quickly of COVID-19 and millions of people dying slowly of diabetes. In this week’s column, we challenge media outlets to help doctors fight this other pandemic that is having a disastrous effect on our health care system.
Consider what’s happened for 20 months now. Broadcasters in North America could hardly wait to tell us night after night about the daily number of deaths from COVID-19.
But what they have not mentioned is that 1 in 10 North Americans now have type 2 diabetes – in effect, that people are sick and many more are on soon to follow. Unfortunately, the majority are not aware of the terrible future they face as diabetes takes its toll.
We should not need to spoon feed the overwhelming mountains of data to journalists. The evidence is in plain sight to all. A visit to any supermarket quickly shows what’s happening to society. Overweight and morbidly obese shoppers are buying cheaper, easier, poor-quality food heavily marketed by powerful producers.
Obesity has been setting the stage for type 2 diabetes for decades. The blunt fact is that 65 years ago 95 percent of diabetes was due to being born with defective genes and just 5 percent to obesity and lifestyle factors. Today, what a reversal! Just 5 percent of diabetes is due to defective genes and 95 percent to obesity.
This is not an act of God. Defective genes do not proliferate so speedily. But human behaviour and faulty diets have changed over the years. Few people are getting enough exercise.
Why ask for media’s help? Doctors have been successful finding cures for diseases in the past. But this current challenge goes well beyond the capabilities of the medical profession. Despite a wealth of medical literature, hundreds of books and weight loss programs, and the tragic consequences of obesity, still the problem escalates.
Some predict that by 2050, rather than 1 in 10 people with type 2 diabetes, it will be 1 in 3! Since the cost of care is now $230 billion annually, this will trigger the most devastating economic and health wreck the world has ever witnessed.
Can it be solved? The medical profession cannot do it alone. But if the media issued an urgent alert, even a fraction of the magnitude of the COVID coverage, there might be hope.
Since COVID struck, the media has been unrelenting in hammering out news of the more than 600,000 U.S. citizens alone who have died. But according to the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S., there are 34 million diabetics in the U.S. and another 88 million have pre-diabetes. The World Heath Organization reports that diabetes is three times more deadly than COVID-19. Worldwide 463 million people have diabetes and about 4.2 million die of it every year.
Media giants in the U.S and Canada are all shooting at the wrong target. There’s a larger killer in our midst. Unlike the COVID-19 virus which will eventually fade away or be managed, type 2 diabetes will continue to creep forward, causing millions to suffer from amputations, blindness, kidney failure and other severe complications day after day, gradually killing far more and costing all of us dearly.
Will big media houses accept the challenge to cover this other pandemic? We want to know.
Dr. W. Gifford-Jones is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the Harvard Medical School. For more than 40 years, he specialized in gynecology, devoting his practice to the formative issues of women’s health.