Northern Ireland has the fastest growing population of diabetics in the UK, it has been revealed.
The number of people diagnosed with the long-term condition increased by a third during the last five years, SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey said.
A total of 80,172 adults and children have the various forms of the illness, which needs manual control of blood sugars because of a lack of insulin.
Mr Ramsey called for more investment in preventative and innovative measures to mitigate the effects of diabetes for sufferers, families and society as a whole.
“The number of people diagnosed with Type 1 and Type 2 is spiralling, and every effort must be made to highlight the cause and effect of the illness, and help curb its influence on to the families of Northern Ireland,” he said.
General medical service figures recorded 80,172 adults and children diagnosed with the illness in Northern Ireland.
It represents a 33pc increase in people diagnosed in the last five years and compares with 18pc in Scotland, 20pc in Wales and 25pc in England. One form of diabetes has been linked to obesity and another to autoimmune disease which damages the cells that make insulin. Researchers are studying the use of stem cell therapy which could eventually provide a widely-used replacement for insulin injections.
Mr Ramsey added: “Clearly much remains to be done in this region, in the prevention, care and treatment to reduce complications, and to reduce the human and financial burden of diabetes.
“What must be recognised is that practically every person living in this world with diabetes owes his or her improved condition, if not their life, to the skills and patience of researchers dedicated to fighting this illness.
“However much work remains to be done, and future progress will largely be determined by the amount of money available. I can only reiterate that raising awareness and funds is fundamental for this year’s theme to become a reality, so I urge everyone to spread the word of what they hear and see this week.”