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Press release

April 17, 2019

Sun Life Financial Asia Releases New Diabetes Report in Asia

More than 60% of diabetics live in Asia!
 Community-Based Approach Needed to Create Opportunities for Change


A coordinated, community-based approach is essential to hold back the rise of diabetes in Asia, according to a new report from Sun Life Financial Asia, in light of World Health Day 2019.

Over 422 million adults worldwide are living with diabetes, with Asian countries now accounting for more than 60% of cases worldwide. According to past research, Sun Life found out that while awareness about what causes diabetes and the methods of prevention have risen, many individuals have not acted to fight the disease.

The new report Diabetes in Asia: Empowering Communities to Lead Healthier Lives focuses on Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia highlighting the importance of engaging communities in these countries to fight the rising health problem.

A dangerous mix of factors such as urbanization, higher levels of physical inactivity, pollution, smoking, and unhealthy diet have created the growing health crisis. Globally, it is estimated that diabetes will cost $1.7 trillion USD in lost GDP between 2011 and 2030. $800 billion of that amount will come from low to middle income countries.

“Diabetes is a leading heath challenge for Asia this century and it’s damaging the quality of life of people across the region. We believe that the only way to hold back the rising tide of diabetes is to work with local communities to create opportunities for change,” says Claude Accum, President of Sun Life Financial Asia. “Communities can be powerful agents for educating, engaging, and empowering families and individuals to make healthier lifestyle choices.”

“The epidemic of Type II diabetes in Asia has far-reaching implications for our overall health, as diabetes can cause diseases of the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, limbs, and even influences our cancer risk and mental health.” says Dr. Loraine Oman-Ganes, Corporate Chief Medical Director for Sun Life Financial.

“Type II diabetes is caused by a complex mix of genetic and environmental factors, but that does not mean that diabetes is our destiny. We have the power to positively influence our own health. Simple lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and  healthy diet can transform outcomes in type II diabetes, and even prevent it.“

“In the Philippines, more than three million adults have diabetes. Still, a huge number of the population believe that diabetes is hereditary despite being aware that a high-carbohydrate diet and the lack of exercise increase one's risk of having the disease,” says Mylene Lopa, Chief Marketing Officer of Sun Life Financial Philippines. She adds, “Fortunately, nearly half of the Filipino respondents are willing to exercise with family members with the disease and the majority of the respondents believe that diabetes screening is a must.”

Here are key statistics from the report: 

  • 422 million adults worldwide living with diabetes.
  • Over 1 million deaths worldwide from Type II diabetes in 2017.
  • $1.7 trillion lost global GDP from 2011 to 2030, including direct and indirect costs of diabetes.
  • 60% of world’s diabetic population live in Asia
  • Urban populations are estimated to more than double by 2050 in South-east Asia.
  • 80% of the population in South-east Asia do not eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • 64% of respondents to Sun Life Asia survey believe a lack of physical activity or exercise is a contributing factor for diabetes, yet only 32% are willing to exercise with a diabetic family member.