Anne L. Peters, MD, CDE


December 19, 2011

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Hi. I'm Dr. Anne Peters, and today I'm reporting from Dubai at the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) meetings. What I want to talk about is the US perspective on the international crisis of diabetes. Now, I know it's easy to sit back and think about all the things that we don't have in the United States when it comes to treating diabetes, and frankly there are many devices and things I'd love to provide to all my patients, but when you get outside of the United States and see what's happening around the world, one is both startled at how much other places lack as well as encouraged by all the things people are doing to try to tackle this epidemic.

This year more than any other year, I've traveled around the world. Most recently I was in Ethiopia, and in Ethiopia they have so little that it makes my clinic in East Los Angeles -- which is in a very poor part of town -- look like a magical oasis in the land of diabetes care. In Ethiopia, they don't really have insulin. So if you need insulin and have type 1 diabetes, you die. They don't really have much in the way of medications except for sulfonylurea agents, and maybe metformin. They don't have finger-stick glucose monitoring for most patients, and they don't have hemoglobin A1c measures. And yet they have people who are working together to bring technologies to Ethiopia and to then start addressing the problem throughout the population.

I think the world has increasingly become aware of these noncommunicable diseases that are wreaking havoc as our societies get older and change their lifestyles, and as rates of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes increase. I think everybody should come to a meeting like this, because here you are going to be able to speak to heads of diabetes associations from around the world, and exchanging ideas is frankly a lot of fun.

Now, what I find interesting in places where they have very little is that they're also eager for knowledge. Interestingly, at this meeting, I'm talking about continuous glucose monitoring, which is a tool that is expensive and even in the United States is often underutilized. But people like to learn about the potential of what we might be able to do for patients, even if they still at this point lack simple things like the tools with which to do self-monitoring of blood glucose levels.

A meeting like IDF is about connection. It is about learning from others around the world, what is important, and how to address these problems together. Everybody in the United States shouldn't take it for granted that we have access to insulin, test strips, and hemoglobin A1c testing. I think it's helpful to know what others lack and then try to help solve the problems both at home and around the world.

This has been Dr. Anne Peters for Medscape.


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