Tomorrow is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. According to The European Anti-Poverty Network, 21% of the EU population – 109 million people – were at risk of poverty, even before the COVID-19 crisis. People living with diabetes are at even greater risk, as they have been shown to be especially vulnerable to the more serious forms of the disease, and are therefore often likely to incur due to additional healthcare-related expenses and/or loss of income.
The WHO defines catastrophic health expenditure as ‘out-of-pocket spending for health care that exceeds a certain proportion of a household’s income with the consequence that households suffer the burden of disease’. Thus medical expenses often push people and families into poverty and can make escaping from poverty impossible. This still occurs in over 8% of households in some European countries, despite the social security measures in place.
The framing of NCDs such as diabetes as ‘lifestyle’ or ‘behavioural’ diseases has allowed socio-economic risk factors like poverty to be overlooked when considering how best to manage, and lower the risk for people of developing, diabetes and diabetes-related complications. However, socioeconomic disadvantage is a contributing factor. According to the WHO Regional Office for Europe, high rates of diabetes can be found among the lower-income groups in many middle- and high-income countries. For example, morbidity from diabetes complications is three times higher among the poorest people in the UK than the richest.
We know that equal access to affordable medicines and diabetes care is not the same across the continent. For this reason, achieving target 3.8 of the Sustainable Development Goals referring to Universal Health Coverage is extremely important. We must protect people living with diabetes and their right to have equal access to affordable medicines and care throughout their lifetime.