New action group tackles growing diabetes problem
Rotarian Larry Deeb, director of the Rotarians Creating Awareness of Diabetes Action Group, takes part in activities on World Diabetes Day 15 November. Photo courtesy of Deeb
The RI Board of Directors has approved a new Rotarian Action Group to help fight the growing epidemic of diabetes.
According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), there are currently 246 million cases of the disease worldwide, with a projected 380 million cases by 2025. The greatest increases will likely occur in the developing world.
"It's clear there is an opportunity for Rotarians to help," says Larry Deeb, a physician and director of the Rotarian Action Group for Diabetes. "Rotary has a unique way of engineering awareness, funds, and ground support to growing problems in the world. Our action group will bring visibility to the fight against diabetes."
The disease, characterized by a failure to regulate glucose, or blood sugar, can lead to serious health problems and even death. It occurs in two main forms: type 1, caused by a malfunction of the autoimmune system that compromises the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin, and type 2, often called adult onset, in which the body's ability to produce or use insulin is impaired.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that diabetes-related deaths will increase by more than 50 percent in the next 10 years without some kind of intervention.
With 44 members, the action group's initial service goals include addressing type 1 diabetes.
The group has its roots in the efforts of Deeb, a member of the Rotary Club of Tallahassee, Florida, USA, and fellow club member Wayne Edwards, president of the new action group.
Since 1995, the pair have collaborated on several Rotary Foundation Matching Grants aimed at raising money for diabetes education. In 2000, they donated funds to Life for a Child, an IDF program that helps children with diabetes in developing countries by providing existing health clinics with insulin and syringes, glucose monitoring machines, and transportation and clinical care for patients.
Deeb and Edwards traveled to Bolivia in 2003 and established clinics in seven cities across the country as part of the first Rotary club-sponsored Life for a Child program. More than 100 children were given free insulin and testing supplies. Projects in Cameroun, Nepal, and Nigeria soon followed.
Edwards, past governor of District 6940, says the group's existing relationship with the IDF will allow it to be more effective in addressing the disease’s increasing incidence among children. Edwards's wife and eldest son have type 1 diabetes.
"There is a real need for Rotary International to participate," he says, adding that the new group "gives interested Rotarians worldwide a chance to get involved with improving the lives of those suffering from diabetes."
Deeb is chair of an IDF committee dedicated to improving insulin availability worldwide. He also has been involved with the American Diabetes Association for two decades, serving in a number of positions, including Medicine and Science president.
"The growing rate of diabetes will cripple countries with incredible costs," Deeb says. "In developing countries, communities are simply unaware of the seriousness of diabetes."
"This action group can be the catalyst for any projects Rotarians dream up."
Read more about other Rotarian Action Groups