World Diabetes Day started in 1991 in response to growing concern about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. It is marked every year on 14 November, the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who co-discovered insulin, which is used to treat type 1 diabetes, along with Charles Best in 1922.

Diabetes is a serious, debilitating, potentially life-threatening, non-communicable disease that can impose a heavy burden on the 463 million diabetics and their families, as well as on healthcare systems and national economies. This is particularly the case in developing countries, home to almost four in five of all people currently living with diabetes.

Access to Diabetes Care – If Not Now, When?

Approximately half of people estimated to be living with diabetes remain undiagnosed. Left untreated with insulin, type 1 diabetes is fatal.

When people with type 2 diabetes go untreated, or are not sufficiently supported, they are at risk of serious and life-threatening complications such as: heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and lower-limb amputation. Many will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes because they seek medical attention for a significant pre-existing condition, unaware that the problem will have been caused by diabetes. Some will be misdiagnosed. Tragically and avoidably, some will be diagnosed post-mortem.

In many cases, if type 2 diabetes is detected early, the risk of developing other serious health problems can be prevented, or at least delayed.

More must be done to prevent people at high risk of type 2 diabetes, developing the condition. And greater effort must be made to diagnose all forms of diabetes early, to prevent complications. Action to address the diabetes pandemic should include access to affordable and uninterrupted care for every person living with diabetes, regardless of where they live or their economic circumstances.



A century after its discovery, insulin and other fundamental components of diabetes treatment remain beyond the reach of millions of people with diabetes across the world. People with diabetes require ongoing care and support to manage their condition and avoid complications.

Fundamental components of diabetes care include:

  • Access to insulin: 100 years after its discovery, millions of people with diabetes cannot access the insulin they need.
  • Access to oral medicines: Many people with diabetes need oral medicines to manage their condition. These remain unavailable, or unaffordable, in many low- and middle-income countries.
  • Access to self-monitoring: Blood glucose monitoring is a fundamental component of diabetes care. Many people with diabetes do not have access to the equipment and supplies they need.
  • Access to education and psychological support: People living with diabetes need ongoing education to manage their condition. Many do not have access to diabetes education.
  • Access to healthy food and a safe place to exercise: People living with or at risk of diabetes need access to healthy food and a place to exercise. Both are fundamental components of diabetes care and prevention.

The centenary of the discovery of insulin presents a unique opportunity to bring about meaningful change for the 460 million people living with diabetes and the millions more at risk.

How you can help

“Have more understanding of the condition and the long term health effects it can have. Understanding of the highs and lows of blood sugars and the effect it can have on the person. Rather than keep saying 'you shouldn't be eating that'. The diabetic person are their own expert of how to manage their condition.”  Diana Atkinson, Hidden Disabilities Sunflower wearer.

Visit the International Diabetes Federation World Diabetes Day website to find out more about this topic, including ways that you can get involved and help bring about change.