As National Diabetes Week comes to an end in Australia, as a member of the life insurance industry, I couldn't help but reflect on the growing burden of diabetes and how we as an industry might be able to lessen the impact on the health and wellbeing of our customers and society in general.
Diabetes Australia found that pre-diabetes affects about 16% of Australian adults, with around 280 Australians developing diabetes every day, that's one person every five minutes. An estimated 500,000 Australians continually go undiagnosed, with people living with type 2 diabetes for up to seven years before being diagnosed . Failure to detect type 2 diabetes early may be costing the Australian health system $700 million each year , with the underlying impact to the life industry equally significant.
The prevalence of diabetes, pre-diabetes and obesity has steadily risen over the past 50 years. Long-term disability includes blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart disease and stroke. And while new drugs are being introduced to combat diabetes, the side effects, and the high cost of supply, is an ongoing issue.
What's clear is that the burden of diabetes, whether detected or not, is increasing on governments, society, individuals and insurers. So what can the life insurance industry do to help turn the tide against this debilitating disease?
While many people are already insured, there is still a big protection gap. We want to encourage people to buy insurance because of the benefits to themselves, their families and society, but we need to think of ways to make insurance more accessible for different groups of people. Our common purposes should be to help customers live longer and healthier lives.
At Swiss Re, we acknowledge that we alone do not have all the answers. But as an industry, is there enough focus on this epidemic? How can we explore opportunities and solutions to improve the lives and outcomes of those developing and living with diabetes, while looking to address the missing gap in offering insurance for diabetics and people at risk of developing it?
Our recent Diabetes L&H Trend Spotlight explores some of the things we are doing in this space. This ranges from how we engage global experts and academia to drive credible scientific evidence in nutritional health and introducing new technology, nutrition and lifestyle solutions to benefit prospective policyholders, lives insured and the companies who insure them.
In short, we are looking to build resilience in our customers. This starts by building knowledge in the general population and encouraging people to be responsible for doing something about their own health. For example, 90% of people with pre-diabetes don’t know it, so getting our customers to a position of understanding what pre-diabetes is and the implications for their health and longevity has to be the first step. Then comes the mitigation strategies – how can people work with their diet, lifestyle, and exercise regime to reduce the chances of developing full diabetes or even completely reverse the effects.
Part of this process is recognising that some people, even after working with the mitigation strategies, will still get diabetes. For this group, building knowledge about how they can best manage their condition is another important part of building resilience.
As with all big shifts in consumer behaviour, these changes need to be sustainable. Insurers have many of the skills and expertise needed to play an increased role in educating, coaching and applying research and greater understanding of what drives and sustains behaviour modification.
We need to think big and start small, looking to engage and create alignment with our customers by doing what we can, to help them to live longer and healthier lives.
Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine
Location: Sydney NSW, Australia