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Diabetes is difficult. The disease imposes life-long demands on people with diabetes and their families, who have to make a multitude of decisions related to managing diabetes. People with diabetes need to monitor their blood glucose, take medication, exercise regularly and adjust their eating habits. Furthermore, they may have to face issues related to living with the complications of diabetes and may be required to make considerable psychological adjustments. As outcomes are largely based on the decisions they take, it is of paramount importance that people with diabetes receive ongoing, high-quality diabetes education that is tailored to their needs and delivered by skilled health professionals.

Without diabetes education, people with diabetes are less prepared to take informed decisions, make behavioural changes, address the psychosocial issues presented by diabetes and, ultimately, may be ill-equipped to manage their diabetes effectively. Poor management will result in reduced health outcomes and an increased likelihood of developing complications. Education is therefore of the utmost importance in the prevention of diabetes complications and central to the World Diabetes Day campaign. The role of the diabetes educator is of critical importance within the diabetes care team. The educator enables people with diabetes to manage their diabetes-related health to the best of their ability so that choices and actions are based upon informed judgement.

Most people with diabetes cannot access diabetes education due to factors such as cost, distance, and the lack of appropriate services. Many more may be unaware of the services that do exist or perhaps not convinced of the benefits that diabetes education can bring. They may feel, for example, that interaction with their physician provides all the education they need. The World Diabetes Day campaign will promote the importance of structured diabetes education programmes as key to the prevention and control of diabetes and advocate for increased opportunities for diabetes education within healthcare systems and communities.

Diabetes education is particularly lacking in developing countries. Even in developed countries, many people cannot access education because there are not enough educators or centres to cope with the rising number of people with diabetes. The International Diabetes Federation is working to identify and fill the gaps in the provision of diabetes education worldwide. In 2003, the Federation produced International Standards for Diabetes Education, which were revised and updated in 2008.

IDF’s educational framework encompasses action for change on multiple fronts, including a commitment to establishing a network of recognized IDF centres of education that can advance the development of diabetes education in every region. IDF has been involved extensively in promoting diabetes education by developing and promoting the international standards and curricula in various languages, providing education through regional associations, providing education materials, lobbying, and disseminating the evidence.

Diabetes education is best provided by a multidisciplinary team. While multidisciplinary education is available in some countries, in many others it is not available and its value is not fully recognized by the medical profession. The World Diabetes Day campaign sets out to challenge this. It is hoped that the awareness raised by the campaign will encourage healthcare systems everywhere to recognize the need to provide structured diabetes education and help establish access to skilled diabetes education as the right of every person with diabetes.