The percentage of people around the world suffering from diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980, growing from 4.7% of the adult population to 8.5%, according to a new report from the World Health Organization. Today one in 12 people in the Americas have the disease, which can lead to blindness, kidney failure, lower limb amputation and premature death.
According to the WHO’s first Global Report on Diabetes, more than 60% of the population in the Americas is now overweight or obese, a leading cause of type 2 diabetes. In addition to shortening lifespans, the disease is a huge economic burden. Health spending on diabetes is more than $800 billion per year, the WHO says.
To combat the disease, the health organization is calling on governments to draft legislation and fiscal policies that would compel people to make better lifestyle decisions, such as higher taxes on sugary drinks and clearer labeling of the fat contents of foods.
Preventing diabetes “is not just an individual responsibility,” WHO executive Carissa F. Etienne said in a press release.