National productivity and economic growth in the G20 countries are at risk due to the increase in diabetes cases and related healthcare costs, warn experts, who estimate that diabetes healthcare costs will reach $566 million across the G20 nations by the end of this year.

This represents up to 15% of the total healthcare budget of high-income countries, says the research, from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF).

The large majority of diabetes healthcare costs result from late diagnosis and the development of costly complications such as renal failure, blindness and lower-limb amputation. Up to 90% of diabetes cases are type 2 diabetes, mostly resulting from rapid lifestyle changes, says the IDF.

The Federation estimates that, worldwide, over 70% of type diabetes cases can be prevented or delayed by adopting healthier lifestyles, equivalent to as many as 150 million new diabetes cases by 2035. It is calling on G20 governments to implement national diabetes prevention plans and to introduce policies to reduce sugar, salt and fat intake. Countries investing in tackling type 2 risk factors could save up to 11% of healthcare expenditure per year; for countries like Australia, this equates to a saving of A$862 million, it says.

“It s vital that governments realise that the rising number of diabetes cases negatively impacts on development and has the potential to bankrupt healthcare systems. Making small and effective investments around healthy eating and living makes economic and social sense,” said the IDF’s chief executive, Petra Wilson.

Another new study says that while diabetes treatment and prevention in European Union (EU) have improved in recent years, EU member states are too slow at proper implementation and monitoring of policies, and they risk losing the battle against the growing diabetes epidemic.

The study, published by the European Coalition for Diabetes, reveals that 30 out of 47 EU states have a national diabetes register and that a large majority have also taken steps to tackle the diabetes burden at policy level.

However, 83% of the national registers are incomplete and there are major weaknesses in implementing and monitoring national diabetes plans. The Czech Republic is the only country in the region that includes a strong monitoring and evaluation system in its national plan, and is also the only nation that assesses the cost-effectiveness of the measures within its plan.

All but two EU states have adopted prevention policies addressing the main risk factors for diabetes, but Greece is the only country that reports monitoring and measuring the impact of its prevention policies, as well as assessing their cost-effectiveness.

Poor levels of funding for prevention throughout Europe represent a lost opportunity, as over 70% of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by adopting healthier lifestyles, says the Coalition.

52 million people are now living with diabetes in Europe, and one in three adults with the condition is undiagnosed, meaning that many people already have at least one complication by the time they are diagnosed. In 20 years time, estimates indicate that over 10% of adults in Europe will have diabetes, if nothing is done to reverse the epidemic. Together with Europe’s aging population, diabetes will lead to spiraling healthcare costs and place a severe strain on national health systems, the Coalition warns.