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Economic Growth and Lifestyle Factors: (Type 2) Diabetes hits China

Posted Mar 26 2010 2:03am

Walking the Bund and holiday crowds - Shanghai

Yesterday, a new study defining rising indicators for a (type 2) diabetes epidemic in China was published in the New England Journal of Medicine .  The fact that diabetes is currently a major public health care threat for China is not a surprise for the  International Diabetes Federation or the World Health Organization who have been talking about China and diabetes for years (see links).  However, the statistics are alarming because they are larger than previously thought, and one wonders if it was also more visible to practicing physicians in Shanghai and Beijing.  For the first time, Dr. Wenying Yang, M.D.  (of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing) and twenty other M.D’s  provided statistical evidence for China’s growing diabetes problem.

The study found that age-standardized prevalences of total diabetes and prediabetes were 9.7% (10.6% among men and 8.8% among women) and 15.5% (16.1% among men and 14.9% among women), respectively, accounting for 92.4 million adults with diabetes (50.2 million men and 42.2 million women) and 148.2 million adults with prediabetes (76.1 million men and 72.1 million women).

Previously it was thought that China’s population (1.326 billion) had a 4.6 incidence rate (2007) and was forecasted to be at 5.7 for 2030.  This study surpasses those numbers and puts China ahead of India – originally called the diabetes capital of the world.  The study also sites cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in China (as it is in the United States).

Reasons for China’s diabetes problem?   The chart below ( Economist ) shows what kind of year China had and then what kind of year the G7 dealt with.

Neighborhood gossip - mirth and laughter in a Shanghai Park

China is dealing with growth at the speed of light!  For many Chinese (growth has been evolving for over 20 years now) – it is the first time (period) in their lives that they have expendable income, and resources (average monthly wages have increased every year in China since the 1980’s).  Quality of life has improved and people are living longer.  Bicycles (although still seen en masse in certain areas) are no longer de rigeur.  People drive – China sold 13.6 million cars in 2009 – more than the USA!  And eating habits?  The fast food industry is growing by about 25% annually – people are moving less and eating more (of the bad stuff).

What would Chairman Mao say about the health of his Republic?


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