In 2019, diabetes was the second-highest cause of death in Mexico. Due to these alarming statistics, the government is looking to lower diabetes rates and increase the health and quality of life of its citizens, especially vulnerable and impoverished populations who are most at risk of acquiring the condition.
6 Facts to Know About Diabetes in Mexico
- Prevalence. The prevalence of diabetes in Mexico stood at almost 17% in 2021, according to the International Diabetes Federation, which equates to one in six individuals or 14 million Mexican adults suffering from diabetes. In just two years, the prevalence of diabetes in Mexico has risen by about 10%. Along with this, there are 11 million adults in Mexico suffering from Impaired Glucose Tolerance, which means they are more susceptible to acquiring Type 2 diabetes. The increasing influx of patients diagnosed with diabetes in Mexico has put a strain on the nation’s public health systems. While the nation is already struggling to keep up with the number of cases it currently has, estimates indicate that “47.5% of people living with diabetes in Mexico have not been diagnosed yet.” These undetected causes go untreated, causing life-threatening complications and a lower quality of life, all of which lead to higher health care spending and costs.
- Risk Factors. One key risk factor for diabetes is being overweight. Those who are obese are at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which people often refer to as a lifestyle disease. In Mexico, “65% of the population is overweight,” a 2019 study led by Mathieu Levaillant says, and 32.4% of the population suffers from obesity. Mexico holds the second highest rate of obesity after the United States, according to Columbia Public Health. To address the obesity epidemic, Mexico’s government has implemented a series of public health policies to influence lifestyle choices. These policies include “taxing sugary beverages and high-calorie non-essential food, mandatory front of packet food labeling and regulation of food advertising targeted at children.”
- Vulnerable Groups. Mexico’s vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those who are of lower socioeconomic status are at particular risk of developing diseases like diabetes and bear the highest burden. Elderly people experiencing diabetes in Mexico are more susceptible to disability and mortality arising from the condition. Not only is the disease costly to manage for low-income individuals but a lack of access to health care means a lack of preventative services that could help with early detection or avoiding the disease altogether. Furthermore, if impoverished individuals become subject to disability or amputation as a result of the disease, the inability or decreased ability to work will disrupt their financial stability even further.
- The Economic Cost. The task of managing diabetes can be a very expensive burden on the family of the person suffering from the disease. As it is a lifelong disease with no cure, proper management is crucial. The cost of this management, however, can create significant financial barriers to health care access, particularly for those who are not financially secure. Diabetes costs Mexico billions of dollars annually, according to NPR.
- The Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A new study noted an increase in diabetes rates since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Researchers noted “148,437 diabetes-related deaths in 2020 compared to an average of 101,496 deaths in 2017-2019.” One could attribute this to barriers to accessing medical care during the pandemic as the study found that “in-hospital deaths related to diabetes decreased in 2020 at 17.8% while out of hospital-deaths increased by 89.4%.”
- Clinics del Azucar. The largest diabetes care clinics in Mexico, Clinics del Azucar, provide affordable diabetes and hypertension care to patients. Through these clinics, teams of doctors, nurses, nutritionists and psychologists jointly help diagnose and treat patients. For instance, the development of comprehensive diet and exercise plans helps to maintain blood sugar levels and prevent the disease from worsening. The International Finance Corporation’s investment of $4 million is assisting Clinicas del Azucar in helping the most vulnerable patients. Through IFC support, Clinicas del Azucar aims to establish 100 new clinics in Mexico by 2024.
With increased efforts to make diabetes care in Mexico both affordable and accessible, the nation has the potential to reduce the prevalence of diabetes in the country and reduce the economic costs associated with it.
– Emma Cook