The problem is more severe in developing countries according to the new WHO report, where one out of three patients with diabetes lack access to insulin.
A fraction of people with diabetes in the world have type 1. That type is when the body can no longer produce sugar-regulating insulin. The causes of that disease is unclear.
The vast majority have type 2 diabetes, which is mainly driven by overweight and where the body becomes insensitive to insulin.
If it is left untreated, the disease can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and amputation of lower limbs. According to the report, 1.5 million people die each year directly from their diabetes and more than 2 million out of complications.
WHO calls on all countries to stop the epidemic of diabetes that can otherwise be very costly, both in lives and health care. Massive action is needed to prevent people from becoming obese, such as eating more fruit and vegetables and exercise.
It is also important to prevent people from smoking, but encourage breastfeeding. Examples of actions include: soda taxes, rules on advertising to children and unhealthy ingredients, more PE, information campaigns and cities built to walk and bike in.
Health care must also become better at detecting patients before they develope diabetes. In Sweden, the prevalence of diabetics is around four percent, half the global average, but in socially deprived suburbs, diabetes can be three times as common.
Göran Tomson professor of health systems research at the Karolinska Institute welcomes the new WHO report.
– It's epidemic now in India and China and the health systems of these countries cannot cope with it, they are built to take care of acute infections, and here we are talking about chronic treatment, says prof. Göran Tomson.