What Is Sustainable Diabetes Care?


The COP28, or the 28th UN Climate Change Conference, is currently happening in Dubai.


This year, COP had the first-ever climate-health ministerial.


Many health issues relate to climate change, but the last few days have had me thinking about sustainability in a diabetes context.


2 Ways to Consider Diabetes and Sustainability


The first thing that comes to mind is all the waste around diabetes. There is so much – the needles, strips, pump disposables, batteries, and more. There are a lot of disposables in healthcare, and the industry is looking at ways to improve and decrease waste.


In part 2 of this blog series, we will look at medical waste in more detail.


But beyond waste, there is much more to consider when it comes to sustainable diabetes care.


After insulin access, we need to consider where healthcare accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and long-term health outcomes overlap.


Unfortunately, global medical systems predominantly focus on disease care, rather than health care. Let’s take a look at the potential impacts of this model on people with diabetes, healthcare providers, social systems and economic systems.


Holistic Healthcare Accessibility is Critical for People with Diabetes


One of the easiest things that can be done to improve sustainability in diabetes care is to improve access to healthcare providers beyond physicians, including Allied Health Services.


Physicians are important in diabetes management, but a holistic approach that includes dietitians, diabetes educators, podiatrists, exercise physiologists, physiotherapists, psychologists and health coaches is equally important for successful diabetes management.


The services they provide PREVENT complications and allow diabetes to be managed effectively.


These services are essential, not optional, for sustainable diabetes care.


If you do not have them, then people living with diabetes face many additional, preventable health complications. This is not sustainable healthcare.


Comprehensive Diabetes Care is More Cost-Effective and Sustainable


The education and preventative care provided by allied health professionals can often avert more expensive treatments for complications down the line.


Fewer Long-Term Health Complications


Diabetes can lead to various complications like heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, and more, which are not only debilitating but also expensive to treat.


Those who receive comprehensive diabetes care, including regular monitoring and education about their condition, are also less likely to experience severe episodes that require hospitalization and emergency room visits.


Better Management of Blood Sugar and Overall Wellness


Holistic care effectively helps people with diabetes manage blood sugar levels and promotes overall health that can significantly reduce the risk of these complications.


These services, often deemed “nice to have”, might seem costly in the short term but they will lead to significant cost and life savings in the long term.


Improved Mental Health


Furthermore, by addressing the mental and emotional health of people living with diabetes, their quality of life can improve. This also often leads to better diabetes outcomes.


If you are still asking about the cost relationship of mental health and diabetes, then start with the potential for increased productivity and reduced absenteeism from work, which has economic benefits both for individuals and society.


Flaws in Health Insurance Policies


Despite the evidence, many insurance companies still find it easier to pay for more diabetes complications instead of paying for preventative support services that will improve quality of life and save them money in the long term.


Barriers in Accessing Meaningful Diabetes Care


There are still gaping health access issues in diabetes.


Globally, lower-income groups, rural communities, minority groups, and those in developing countries lack access to some (or the majority) of the essential diabetes services, medications, and devices.


In some cases, these populations have a higher prevalence of diabetes yet they face greater barriers accessing basic health services.


Those of us in the diabetes space know that policy changes are essential in order to create more sustainable, holistic care models in diabetes management.


Sustainable Diabetes Care is Possible


In a world where managing diabetes is a person-first, holistic endeavor, the benefits are vast:

  • People living with diabetes will experience fewer complications from the condition.
  • Expenses will be lower.
  • There will be less burden on the healthcare system.
  • People with diabetes will likely be happier and realize their full potential more easily.
  • Economies will benefit.
  • Stress and pressure will be alleviated for those who care for someone with diabetes.
  • Inefficient medical systems will change for other chronic conditions, too.


All of this is possible. But it takes work to bring about change.


To achieve these changes, those who work in healthcare systems and insurance have to want to look beyond the status quo.


It might feel easy to keep doing it “how we always did”, but the evidence is clear: doing things the way we’ve been doing them so far is not sustainable nor offering a better quality of life for people who live with diabetes.


What’s Next in Diabetes and Sustainability?


In part 2 of this exploration of sustainable diabetes care, we will look at some of the practical ways that people with diabetes and the systems that care for them can incorporate sustainability practices into diabetes management.

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