Diabetes has grave social and economic implications for individuals and society. It is a huge challenge both in the developed world and in developing countries.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that 371 million people live with diabetes worldwide. This amounts to 8.3% of the world population.
In Europe, the number of people with diabetes currently stands at 55 million. Estimates indicate that an additional 21.2 million people are yet to be diagnosed.
The high number of undiagnosed diabetes cases means that millions of people are at risk of costly and debilitating diabetes complications, including nerve and kidney disease, blindness, amputation and stroke.
Along with the human suffering from these devastating complications comes an increasingly heavy economic burden. In 2012, 138.8 billion Euros were spent on diabetes in Europe.
Costs include those for healthcare as well as economic costs to the wider society in loss of productivity, early retirement and associated lost opportunities for economic development.
Diabetes is not just a Western problem; 80% of all diabetes-related deaths occur in low to middle income countries, so finding ways of providing affordable access to healthcare is critical.
Mobile connectivity can help provide this access. More than 3.2 billion people worldwide now have mobile phones, giving them low cost access to communications and increasingly, data services and the internet.
Mobile health technologies (mHealth), such as connected blood glucose monitors, can help to improve the management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, and reduce healthcare costs.
The mHealth Grand Tour was conceived as a way of bringing together all of the organisations involved in mHealth: pharmaceutical companies, mobile operators, healthcare providers, technology companies, NGOs and governments to share experiences and to raise awareness about the challenges of diabetes and to demonstrate the potential of mHealth as part of the solution.
To demonstrate how new technology solutions can help people to address the challenges we face with diabetes, collectively and individually, we developed the mHealth Grand Tour. We wanted an environment that would be physically challenging both for the participants and for the technologies.
As well as helping us understand the value of exercise and diet, the Tour is designed to enable people with diabetes to participate, where appropriate use mHealth solutions, and show that it is possible to manage the condition in extreme circumstances.
We also wanted to raise funds for charity. We are providing charity places in the Tour, we will host a charity event in Barcelona and hope that all of the riders will individually raise as much money as possible to help tackle this global challenge.