This article is part of our special report Tackling Diabetes in the EU.
SPECIAL REPORT: Sweden has the best healthcare system to tackle diabetes, but this is mainly due to the Scandinavian country having a better national registry, according to the 2014 Euro Diabetes Index, launched in Vienna on Wednesday (17 September).
The 2014 Euro Diabetes Index, a congress organised by the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, shows that Sweden comes out on top in tackling diabetes, according to a comparison of the 28 EU member states, as well as Norway and Switzerland.
The analysis, carried out by the Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP), was based on 28 defined indicators and areas, including prevention, case finding, range and reach of services, access to treatment and care, procedures and outcomes. According to the HCP, Sweden only has to improve its prevention under “Exercise in compulsory school”.
Sweden was followed by the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Estonia scored the lowest points.
In 2013, more than 32 million Europeans had diabetes, which is around 8.1% of the population, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). By 2035, the number will have increased to 38 million. Only 50% of the population with diabetes have been diagnosed.
Speaking at the conference, Johan Hjertquist, the founder and president of the HCP, said his organisation wishes to compare reliable data in the healthcare systems to increase transparency on diabetes care and to empower patients in Europe. However, since only seven of the 30 countries have national diabetes registries, the comparability of countries and sharing of best practices becomes impossible.
Beatriz Cebolla, director at the HCP, said that Sweden got the first place in the index, but this is not only because the country has the best access to care.
“They of course have a very strong system, but they benefit from having data on all of the 28 indicators we work with,” Cebolla said.
Cebolla added that after having collected the necessary data on diabetes, Europe had been divided into three regions: Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe.
“In Northern Europe, they understand that they have a problem with diabetes, and they are trying to do something about it. A very high percentage has access to patient information, access to doctors, drugs and treatment. The Mediterranean countries were doing well on diabetes until the beginning of the financial crisis and then their ‘enthusiasm’ stopped. They still have good access to care, but they don’t have good registries,” Cebolla said.
“The countries in the east still have to make a big effort. Patients have no access to proper primary care. They don’t have permanent contact with their doctors. There are many other factors where they lack the proper management of the disease,” she added.
No data, no cure
Professor Thomas Wascher, president of the Austrian Diabetes Association (OEDG), mentioned that in Austria, a person is diagnosed with diabetes every 50th minute, and 10,000 die every year, even though most deaths are due to complications related to diabetes. He said that Austria, which came 13 on the scoreboard, has shortcomings which could be improved by having more necessary data available, such as a national registry and database.
Sandra Rolih, board member of IDF Europe, agreed that national registries are crucial to improve diabetes care in Europe. She said that the diabetes epidemic has been widely ignored, both at the national and EU level, and therefore, more advocacy is necessary.
“Half of European countries have not provided reasonably good data. I think we can all agree that this is something to think about. We should join our efforts in getting national diabetes registries in every European country,” she said. “Because I completely agree: No data, no cure.”
Diabetes is a chronic disease where there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. This high blood sugar produces the symptoms of frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger.
Untreated, diabetes can cause many complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, foot ulcers and damage to the eyes.
Every two minutes, an EU citizen dies of diabetes-related diseases, according to the European Diabetes Leadership Forum (EDLF), a stakeholder organisation initiated by pharma company Novo Nordisk, ?which aims to move diabetes up the public health agenda.
50% of all people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease, making diabetes the fourth most common cause of death in Europe, EDLF figures show. Meanwhile, 10-20% die of kidney failure, 10% develop severe visual impairment and 50% suffer from diabetic neuropathy, it says.
- 1-3 Oct.: Health organisations, campaigners, EU politicians and industry meet for Gastein Health Forum in Bad Hofgastein, Austria.
- 3-7 Nov.: Diabetes Awareness Week in the European Parliament.
- 14 Nov.: World Diabetes Day.
- EURACTIV Germany: Schweden hat die beste Diabetiker-Versorgung der EU