World Diabetes Day 2012 focuses on children's protection

News release

On World Diabetes Day (14 November), the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region urges governments and other stakeholders to take immediate action against the marketing to children of food and non-alcoholic beverages high in saturated fats, trans fatty acids, sugars or salt.

"Marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages can influence children's eating patterns adversely," says Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. "Those who produce, market and trade food can take important steps to make everyone's food healthier."

The theme of World Diabetes Day 2012 — Diabetes: Protect Our Future — underscores the need for governments and societies to protect future generations by creating environments that are more conducive for healthy diets and physical activity.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs from a lack of insulin, a hormone regulating blood sugar, or from the body's inability to effectively use insulin. Symptoms include excessive urination, thirst, constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue. The result is hyperglycaemia, or high glucose (sugar) in the blood, which damages nerves and blood vessels. Eventually, this leads to complications such as kidney failure, stroke, blindness and heart disease.

Type I diabetes occurs in childhood from unknown causes. It is not preventable and requires daily doses of insulin. Type II diabetes is largely due to excess weight and physical inactivity and accounts for 90% of diabetes cases globally. Historically, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults, but recently has been increasing among children.

A recent WHO-supported study in the Philippines demonstrated a pattern of marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages. The study evaluated 9867 food advertisements within 500 metres of 30 schools in Metro Manila. Eighty five per cent of the advertisements were for unhealthy foods.

Diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases like cancers and cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases kill nearly 30 000 people in the Western Pacific Region each day and account for 80% of the region's deaths. Globally, more than 347 million people have diabetes. Unless urgent steps are taken, deaths due to diabetes will double between 2005 and 2030.

WHO calls for a global action to reduce marketing to children of foods and non-alcoholic beverages high in saturated fats, trans fatty acids, sugars, or salt. In 2010, the World Health Assembly, WHO's governing body, adopted a resolution endorsing 12 recommendations concerning the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children.

Western Pacific countries are taking steps to reduce the marketing to children of food and beverage that is rich in saturated fats, trans fatty acids, sugars, or salt.

  • In the Republic of Korea, television advertisement of high energy, low nutritional value foods—including snacks and meal substitutes popular among children—is limited from 17:00 to 19:00. Food advertisements are also prohibited within 200 metres of schools.
  • In Australia, food items are labelled by colour. Red means unhealthy; yellow means somewhat unhealthy; and green means healthy.

For more information, please contact

Dr Hai-Rim Shin
Team Leader, Noncommunicable Diseases and Health Promotion
Tel: +63 2 5289866
Email: shinh@wpro.who.int

Ms Marilu Lingad
Assistant, Public Information Office
Tel: +63 2 5289993
Email: lingadm@wpro.who.int

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