New European health report highlights growing health challenge of diabetes

7 Apr 2016

Diabetes is an increasingly common health condition associated with disabling and potentially fatal complications. The number of people living with diabetes has increased significantly in recent decades to approximately 420 million people worldwide. Factors driving this increase include rising levels of obesity, low levels of physical activity, ageing populations and widening health inequalities. Diabetes is associated with a high individual, social and economic burden. This burden continues to increase, posing significant challenges to individuals and health systems.

On World Health Day 2016 European health consortium JA-CHRODIS has launched a new policy brief highlighting the need to step up measures in prevention and treatment of diabetes.The CHRODIS diabetes policy brief examines a selection of National Diabetes Plans (NDPs) across Europe and highlights potential areas for the exchange of good practices in the areas of prevention and treatment.

Diabetes in Ireland

The Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH), the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the European Institute of Women’s Health represent Ireland in JA-CHRODIS working on initiatives that address major risk factors for chronic conditions, including Type 2 diabetes.

In Ireland, Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes particularly affecting those over 50. Recent figures based on data from the Longitudinal Study on Ageing in Ireland found that diagnosed Type 2 diabetes prevalence was 8.4% in people aged 50 years and over[1].

 By 2020, the numbers of people living with diabetes in Ireland is expected to increase by 30% from 2010 figures[2].

Prevention and addressing risk factors through health promotion

Adopting a healthy lifestyle such as eating a healthy balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active can help decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes[3].  Healthy Ireland, the national Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013-2025[4] is the national framework to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in Ireland. Healthy Ireland makes recommendations to prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes while other government policy addresses increasing awareness of diabetes, its symptoms and management[5]

Ireland’s first ever National Physical Activity Plan was recently launched which aims to get at least half a million more Irish people taking regular exercise within ten years. If achieved, this will help reduce the burden of diabetes in Ireland.


For those living with diabetes effective treatment is key to maintaining health and wellbeing. The HSE’s national clinical programme for diabetes supports a move towards an integrated model of care that promotes a holistic approach to managing the condition. Areas of progress in the last few years includes the establishment of a National Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Programme in 2013 and the increase in diabetes specialist podiatry posts within the HSE to support the model of care for the diabetic foot. A cycle for care for adults with type 2 diabetes was launched at the end of 2015 supported by guidelines.

“A better understanding of the key enablers and barriers is of utmost importance to support countries’ efforts to build a successful response to diabetes at the national level”, said Dr Jelka Zaletel from the National Institute of Public Health of Slovenia (NIJZ). 

The policy brief was coordinated on behalf of JA-CHRODIS by the NIJZ and the ISS. It is being launched on World Health Day 2016 which focuses on diabetes and aims to trigger specific, effective and affordable actions to tackle diabetes. The Policy Brief can be found here.

Useful Resources:

Obesity Hub is a reference point for Irish and international obesity data, policy, research reviews, and interventions. It is managed by the Institute of Public Health (IPH).

Healthy Ireland is a Government-led initiative which aims to create an Irish society where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health, and where wellbeing is valued and supported at every level of society.

More information:

JA-CHRODIS is a European collaboration that brings together over 60 associated and collaborating partners from national and regional departments of health and research institutions, from 26 EU Member States. These partners work together to identify, validate, exchange and disseminate good practice on chronic diseases across EU Member States and to facilitate its uptake across local, regional and national borders. The focus is health promotion and primary prevention as well as the management of diabetes and multi-morbid chronic conditionsPlease see:

[1] Tracey ML, McHugh SM, Buckley CM, Canavan RJ, Fitzgerald AP, Kearney PM. The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes and related complications in a nationally representative sample of adults aged 50 and over in the Republic of Ireland. Diabetic Medicine, 2015; 33; 441-445.

[2] Institute of Public Health in Ireland (2012) Diabetes Briefing. Dublin: Institute of Public Health in Ireland.

[3] Institute of Public Health in Ireland (2012) Diabetes Briefing. Dublin: Institute of Public Health in Ireland.

[4] Department of Health. Healthy Ireland - a framework for improved health and wellbeing 2013 - 2025. 2013

[5] Department of Health and Children (2010). Changing Cardiovascular Health: National Cardiovascular Health Strategy 2010-2019. Dublin: Department of Health and Children.