Diabetes affects 1 in 12 people globally, with 1 out of every 9 healthcare dollars spent on diabetes-related health issues - an incredible $612 billion US dollars in 2014 (International Diabetes Foundation, World Atlas, 2014). In Canada alone, healthcare spending for diabetes in 2014 was $13.5 billion, with 3 million people or 9% of the population living with diabetes and twice as many having asymptomatic prediabetes (Canadian Diabetes Association Economic Report, 2014).
Specific groups like Aboriginal people and Asian-Canadians are at particularly high risk. Worse, the incidence of diabetes is rising, and if trends continue in Canada, the prevalence of diabetes will increase by 47% by 2024 affecting nearly 5 million people. Type 2 diabetes accounts for nearly 90% of all cases and is largely the result of complex interactions related to obesity, diet, lifestyle, genetic and socio-economic factors. Type 1 diabetes accounts for just under 10% of cases and arises from the autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells. Gestational diabetes, while a less common form of the disease, is also on the rise and increases the risk of developing diabetes later in life for both mother and child. Diabetes is associated with a myriad of complications and is the leading cause of heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, blindness and limb amputations. Clearly diabetes is one of the most pressing health concerns of our time.
The Government of Canada has identified Health and Life Sciences as one of 5 priority research areas where discovery and breakthroughs through strategic investment can give Canada distinct advantages on a global scale. Specific areas of focus include:
- Neuroscience and Mental Health
- Regenerative Medicine
- Health in an Aging Population
- Biomedical Engineering
- Medical Technologies
Scientists at the Alberta Diabetes Institute are engaged in research that is fully aligned with each of these focus areas and lead the development of new technologies and health policies that will not only help manage and treat diabetes, but will stem the rising incidence of the disease through improved diagnosis and early intervention. This extends to population health programs such as diabetes screening and risk education in Aboriginal communities. The Alberta Diabetes Institute is therefore well-poised to further establish Canada as a world leader in diabetes research and development.