Photo by Will Owens

Why It Matters What We Are Doing  |  Who Is Involved



Why It Matters

Diabetes has become a worldwide epidemic. The number of people living with diabetes has doubled since 1980 to 347 million, a far greater increase than expected. By 2030, 552 million people across the globe will be living with this very serious disease.  About a third of individuals with diabetes live in China and India. Today, 11.6% of Chinese adults have diabetes compared with less than 1% in 1980. Diabetes has increased by more than 72% in India over the past 14 years. Individuals with diabetes are at high risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, vision-threatening eye disease and amputations. The most common form of diabetes, type 2, is strongly linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.  There is much to be done to prevent diabetes and improve the lives of those living with the disease.

What We Are Doing

We are making breakthroughs at every level of diabetes prevention and treatment, from bench to bedside to community. Faculty at the Gillings School are transforming our understanding of the basic science behind diabetes. Read More

They have identified important biological signals that link lipids, obesity and insulin resistance.  They are learning how flu shots may not work as well in people who are obese or have diabetes, compared to those who are not overweight. And they have demonstrated that the arsenic that contaminates some drinking water and food can make people more susceptible to diabetes.  Our scientists have also identified how various foods and nutrients can improve health in people living with diabetes.

We have found that not only type 2 diabetes, but also type 1 diabetes is increasing among youth in the U.S.  And unfortunately, for youth with either type of diabetes, evidence for the development of the long-term vascular complications of diabetes commonly emerges within the first few years after diagnosis.

Our work also has practical impact in communities in the U.S. and other countries where diabetes is taking a major toll.  In China, a wide-reaching health and nutrition survey is showing the effects of modernization on diabetes prevalence and suggesting policy changes that can slow the epidemic. In the U.S., our faculty are helping youth in American Indian communities to reduce their diabetes risk by engaging the youth and their families to find practical ways to eat a healthy diet and increase physical activity.  And, we are working with youth with type 1 diabetes to develop important problem-solving strategies that will help them to manage their diabetes. Our faculty’s leadership in developing diabetes peer support programs in the U.S. and a number of other countries has resulted in remarkable reductions in hospitalization rates and emotional distress.

We are also training an extraordinary group of young scholars from the U.S. and emerging economies to become the diabetes leaders of the future, thus building state, national and global capacity to combat the enormous toll that diabetes is taking on human health and wellbeing, health care costs and economic productivity.

Who Is Involved

Our leaders in diabetes come from across the Gilling School, and include our world-class faculty, staff, post-docs and students.  This overview only captures a fraction of the important research, teaching, and public service efforts in diabetes at the Gillings School.  Please explore the individual leader descriptions to learn more about their work.