Diabetes is an increasingly serious problem in Europe. Today, at least 32 million Europeans are suffering from the disease. In 2030, that number is expected to rise to more than 38 million. The EU and the member states have an opportunity to lower this estimate and reverse this trend. If we act now, we can save lives, improve the quality of life of those affected and save money in the long run.
We have already started. As part of the EU's seventh framework programme for research and technological development, €270m has been invested in research on obesity and diabetes in the past six years. This is a good first step. However, it needs to be followed up by a more in-depth approach on behalf of the EU and the member states.
According to the international diabetes federation, member states are currently facing and addressing the challenge of diabetes in different ways and at different paces. However, they all have one thing in common. The number of people suffering from the disease is growing. Some countries have been focusing on treating those suffering from the illness, while others have been concentrating on prevention.
Northern European countries are ahead of their peers. This is because they provide easy access to patient information, doctors, drugs and treatment. Moreover, countries in this region have an increased focus on prevention. In Denmark, for example, more exercise was introduced in schools. In eastern European countries, most of the attention is given to improving healthcare systems. In Slovenia, many diabetes-related deaths have been prevented, thanks to a relatively high level of investment.
But there is still a long way to go. I believe that we, as politicians, whether local, national or European, should have the courage to set specific targets for reducing the number of people suffering from diabetes and other chronic diseases. If we set specific goals for the years to come, the EU and member states will feel more compelled to act. This way, there will be more pressure to come up with well thought out and well executed initiatives. This issue is too important for us to just sit there and do nothing.
I will personally continue to work to ensure that the EU has a strong focus on prevention, early detection and improvement of treatments. I hope that the commission, parliament and council can work together to come up with an agreement that addresses the growing problem. 325,000 people die each year from diabetes in Europe. There is no doubt in my mind that we must act now.