The Challenges of Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes is a life style disease increasing across the world. The increase has been particularly marked in Asia and specifically within China, where only a few decades ago, diabetes was practically unknown.

Type 2 Diabetes brings with it significant financial cost; but more importantly, causes great human suffering. Insurers in China are an important component in financing the treatment chain of diabetes and, is thus in a position to provide financial incentives that encourage healthy living and contribute to type 2 diabetes prevention strategies.

The Swiss Re Institute has collaborated with Harvard University to publish a new report on the fight against this debilitating and deadly disease. The first article of the report, by David Lu of Swiss Re, argues that, using a wider classification of disease indicators, pre-diabetes conditions could be affecting Chinese adults more than we currently anticipate. John Schoonbee of Swiss Re suggests a different approach to analysing diabetes, which could point to improved strategies of disease management. Yanping Li, Sylvia H. Ley, and Frank B. Hu of Harvard University identify the drivers of the diabetic epidemic, notably the shift to diets high in meat and processed food; and the decline in physical activity, attributable to more sedentary jobs and lifestyles.

Addressing diabetes is a pressing public health concern. Yanping Li, Vasanti S. Malik, and Frank B. Hu of Harvard University discuss the evolution of China's health insurance system, which has recovered to near-universal coverage. However, continued high out-of-pocket expenses constrain the prevention and early identification of disease by health authorities. Finally, Giselle Abangma of Swiss Re reports on new diabetes treatments coming on stream and their potential to create a more individual basis of treatment.

The fight against diabetes and the management of its financial burden will engage multiple stakeholders in China over coming decades. There is a huge opportunity for the insurance industry to support changes of behaviour in managing diabetes. Swiss Re is committed to sharing cutting-edge research with its clients and stakeholders. If China's diabetic epidemic is to be curbed, it will take a concerted effort from all those in the health care value chain.