Diabetes in India: Stats, Causes, Government Initiatives and Strategies

Diabetes in India
Diabetes in India

A recent ICMR study states that India has 101 million people living with diabetes.

Diabetes is a long-term illness that happens when the pancreas doesn’t have enough insulin or when the body can’t properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that controls blood sugar levels. When it isn’t controlled, it can cause high blood sugar, which damages the body’s systems over time, especially the nerves and blood vessels.

  • People with this disease have a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • The risk of developing foot ulcers, infections, and the need for limb amputation is increased due to nerve damage in the feet.
  • It can also lead to blindness caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina.
  • Additionally, it is a major cause of kidney problems.

Statistics and Facts on the Number of Diabetes Patients in India

  • India has the second-highest number of diabetes patients in the world, after China.
  • There are an estimated 77 million people above the age of 18 years suffering from this disease in India.
  • Nearly 25 million are prediabetics, which means they are at a high risk of developing this disease shortly.
  • The prevalence of this disease in India has increased from 7.1% in 2009 to 8.9% in 2019.
  • It is estimated that the number of patients with this disease in India will reach 100 million by 2030.

Reasons for High Diabetes Patients in India

  • Insulin Resistance: Indians have higher levels of insulin resistance compared to Europeans, which is a significant factor in the higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the Indian population.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Genetic susceptibility plays a key role in the development of type 2 diabetes, and Indians tend to develop the disease at a younger age compared to Europeans.
  • A family history of this disease increases the risk, and having both parents with diabetes significantly raises the likelihood of developing the disease.
  • Environmental Factors: The rise of this disease in India is strongly influenced by environmental factors. India is experiencing an epidemiological transition, which involves changes in population distribution patterns, fertility rates, life expectancy, and leading causes of death.
  • Urbanization, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, and high levels of stress contribute to insulin resistance and this disease.

Government of India’s Initiatives

The government of India has taken a number of initiatives to tackle the growing problem of this disease, including:

  • The National Diabetes Policy, which was launched in 2017, aims to reduce the prevalence of this disease in India by 20% by 2025.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), also known as Ayushman Bharat, is a national health insurance scheme that provides free coverage for treatment to over 500 million people.
  • Awareness Generations: The government has also launched a number of awareness campaigns to educate people about this disease and how to prevent it.
  • The government of India uses different types of media like print, electronic, and social media to raise awareness in the community.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) promotes healthy eating habits.
  • The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports leads the Fit India movement, and the Ministry of AYUSH organizes various activities related to yoga.
  • The Health Department is starting a new initiative called the NCD Control program to screen the entire population for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors. They want to create a registry of people above 30 years old with NCDs to understand how many people are affected.

Steps to Tackle the Issue of Diabetes

  • Minimize Insulin Resistance
  • Increasing physical activity.
  • following a strict diet to lose weight.
  • using diabetic drugs like metformin.
  • Changes from a sedentary lifestyle to an active lifestyle can have a significant impact on genetic factors related to insulin secretion, insulin action, fat distribution, and obesity.
  • Reducing the consumption of unhealthy fats, sugar, and processed foods.
  • Screening for this disease at an early age.
  • Providing access to affordable diabetes treatment.
  • Preventive awareness: Educating people about this disease and how to prevent it.
  • Revamping the healthcare system of India in order to provide accessibility and affordability for patients.
  • Programs have to be implemented to improve healthcare infrastructure, develop the skills of healthcare professionals, raise awareness about health, and encourage prevention and early diagnosis of NCDs.
  • It is important to invest around 2.5 percent of GDP by 2025 in healthcare systems to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

Way Forward

It is a serious health problem that is becoming increasingly common in India. The challenge of tackling this disease in India is significant, but it is not insurmountable. Reduction in the incidence of this disease will require measures to promote physical activity and reduce obesity in adults and children, alongside programs to increase healthy infant and fetal growth.

A simple trick would be to keep eating traditional, high-fiber meals and fully adopt Indian practices like yoga and meditation to reduce stress. Such an endeavor would assure us that the epidemic of diabetes is addressed and that our burden of disease is significantly reduced.


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