Year 2021 marks the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of insulin. In 1921, Canadians Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin, selling the patent for 1 USD, with the vision that this life-saving medication would be available to all. However, globally about half of the people in need of insulin do not have access. Access to insulin is a problem in low- and middle-income countries, as well as in some high-income countries, such as the US, where rationing of insulin and even death due to a lack of access have recently been reported. Humanitarian crises add further complexity to this challenge, as they often lead to disrupted medication supply chains, health services and unpredictable access to food.
Adults and children with type 1 diabetes who cannot access insulin and continuity of care are at acute risk of death and disability - with avoidable suffering and loss of individual agency and dignity. Without access to insulin, many people with type 2 diabetes will suffer life-threatening complications. Therefore, urgent and high-level advocacy is needed to ensure universal access to insulin for all who need it.
A World Health Assembly Resolution on Access to Insulin would draw international attention to the urgent need for access to insulin, and request commitment by the World Health Organization and its Member States to better ensure availability, accessibility, affordability and quality for all people in need of this essential medicine.
A World Health Assembly Resolution on Access to Insulin would draw international attention to the urgent need for access to insulin, and request commitment by the World Health Organization and its Member States to better ensure availability, accessibility, affordability and quality for all people in need of this essential medicine. Several signatories of the Boston Declaration (Health Action International, The Addressing the Challenge and Constraints of Insulin Sources and Supply (ACCISS) Study, MSF Access Campaign, T1International, Santé Diabete and Stichting Vluchteling) have come together to move the global access to insulin agenda forward.
A side event on a resolution for access to insulin was planned at the 73rd World Health Assembly in May 2020, but hosted virtually on June 17, 2020, due to COVID-19. The event was attended by over 230 participants and moderated by Dr. Suerie Moon from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. The need for a resolution in 2021 was supported by the speakers and endorsed in the comments received by audience members.
The 100-year anniversary of the discovery of insulin in 2021 marks a critical milestone to celebrate the discovery of insulin and create an action plan at the global and national levels to ensure access to insulin for all in need. Therefore, support is being sought and a resolution is being proposed for inclusion in the program of the 74th World Health Assembly in May 2021.
The need for clinical guidance and education was highlighted in the recent Boston Declaration and one of the four major targets the group prioritized to work towards was the establishment of a unified set of clinical and operational guidelines for diabetes care in humanitarian settings, including the development of clinical guidelines and educational materials. To meet this need, Open Access Diabetes: Diabetes Education for All (DEFA) was established to provide comprehensive open access diabetes education and clinical guidance for healthcare providers and create a portal for support and educational material for individuals living with diabetes in humanitarian settings.
The goal of DEFA is to create a global online collaboration network to empower communities of healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes in humanitarian settings to collaborate and communicate internationally. Through this online education portal with applications in mobile health and several languages, health care providers and trainees will be able to access at no cost academically rigorous content and resources, such as on-demand educational modules, expert opinion, medical guidelines and protocols, clinical case discussions, educational materials, clinical and operational tool kits and clinical demonstrations. It will also provide education and a psychosocial support platform for individuals living with diabetes and their families.
Dr. Nuha El Sayed, Director of Global Education and Clinical Training at Joslin Diabetes Center and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, is leading this initiative and is working in collaboration with Dr. Yuri Quintana, Chief of the Division of Clinical Informatics, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, who has developed several global online collaboration networks for health care delivery and innovative applications in mobile health.
It is our hope that DEFA will be a central, easy-to-access portal for comprehensive, reliable, and practical diabetes guidance and a support network for healthcare providers and individuals living with diabetes in humanitarian settings, ultimately leading to improved outcomes and reduced healthcare disparities for vulnerable populations with diabetes worldwide.
DEFA is an independent nonprofit organization and is not a part of or affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center.