Countries of Latin America facing sharply higher costs for diabetes care

December 04, 2001

In future years, Latin American countries could face sharply higher costs in caring for persons with diabetes, due to shortcomings in patient care and education and demographic changes such as aging populations and sedentary lifestyles. That is according to a research study in the most recent issue of the "Pan American Journal of Public Health," a monthly publication of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

In an investigation of the quality of care for diabetic patients in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Uruguay, researchers looked at the medical records of more than 13,500 patients, from public and private health care entities and from Social Security health care systems. While much of the care was adequate, other areas were lacking, according to the article. Among the key deficiencies found were:

Such inadequacies in diabetes care can contribute to higher rates of chronic diabetes complications, which are the primary cause of illness and death resulting from diabetes and can also greatly increase the medical expenses that countries must bear.

The study's results, according to the journal article, "show the need to improve the quality of care for diabetic patients, [which could] improve the quality of life of persons who suffer from diabetes as well as diminish the socioeconomic costs of the disease."

Beginning to work now to overcome these shortcomings is critical, according to the article. It is projected that in the year 2025 there will be some 39.3 million persons with diabetes in Latin America and the Caribbean, more than double the 18.3 million estimated for the year 2000.

In Latin America, growth in diabetes is being fueled by a number of trends, including aging populations, a decrease in individuals' physical activity levels, and an increase in people consuming high-calorie diets, with a resulting rise in obesity.

The article was authored by Juan José Gagliardino, of the Center for Experimental and Applied Endocrinology of the National University of La Plata, in La Plata, Argentina; two other researchers from the same institution, Marcelo de la Hera and Fernando Siri; and other researchers from the QUALIDIAB network, which was established in 1999 to investigate and improve the quality of diabetes care in the six countries in this study.

The article is in the November 2001 issue of the "Pan American Journal of Public Health." That issue is devoted entirely to the subject of diabetes in the Americas. The article on the quality of diabetes care can be viewed and printed for free at the Internet Web site of the Pan American Health Organization (, by doing a search for the phrase "diabetes care." The article is in Spanish, with an English-language summary of the piece.
The "Pan American Journal of Public Health," known in Spanish as the "Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública," is the leading scientific and technical publication of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The journal carries articles dealing with public health concerns throughout the Americas, in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

PAHO, which was founded in 1902, works to improve health and raise living standards in all the countries of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.

Pan American Health Organization

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