Knesset: Diabetes Now a Health Crisis in Israel

Ashkelon Barzilai Hospital (Flash90)
Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital. (Flash90)

The number of diabetes patients in Israel has risen from 280,000 to 600,000 over the past 25 years, according to Professor Itamar Raz, President of the Israel Diabetes Society – and it’s not just due to an increase in the population. Speaking in a Knesset discussion, Raz said that, like in other Western countries, Israelis are eating too much – especially of the wrong foods – and are not exercising enough. “That’s enough to bring about a major health crisis like this,” Raz said.

The vast majority of those suffering from the disease have Type II diabetes, which develops with age and is due to poor diet, lack of exercise, and other factors. Only about 50,000 Israelis suffer from Type I, or juvenile diabetes, which is generally genetic.

In addition to the 600,000 people suffering from diabetes already, an equal number are considered pre-diabetic – meaning that unless they undertake a radical change in lifestyle, they are very likely to develop the disease. According to Raz, diabetes is the main reason for hospital patients who are admitted for blindness, amputations, and dialysis treatment.

Speaking at the discussion, Professor Aharon Afek, deputy director of the Health Ministry, said that the Ministry had authored an innovative emergency plan to deal with the problem, that will consist of education, advertising, social media activities, and other methods to make Israelis aware of the dangers.

During the discussion, statistics regarding the weight of IDF soldiers were revealed. According to the statistics, over 70% of soldiers gain weight during their service. As it is, one quarter of all soldiers are overweight when they are drafted. Speaking at the discussion, MK Eli Alalouf said that he would introduce legislation that will enable the army to better deal with weight and nutrition issues, in the hope that by instilling good eating habits in soldiers when they are young, they can avoid problems such as diabetes later on.

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