Local duo helps diabetes get its day.
Anyone who doubts that one or two highly motivated people can make a difference in the world never met Kari and Clare Rosenfeld.
It was 2001 when the mother-daughter duo were sitting at their kitchen table in Eugene, talking about diabetes and how to help young people with the disease "do something positive about their negative situation," mom Kari Rosenfeld said.
Five years later, that kitchen-table talk has turned into action, as the United Nations General Assembly this week adopted a resolution establishing World Diabetes Day, marking the first time the world body has recognized a noninfectious disease as posing a threat to global health.
"This resolution is of immense significance because for the first time governments in the world have recognized the enormity of the diabetes epidemic," said Dr. Martin Silink, president of the International Diabetes Federation, the Brussels-based umbrella group for national diabetes associations.
An estimated 246 million people worldwide have diabetes, about 6 percent of the world's adult population, of whom 80 percent live in developing countries.
The disease kills about 3.8 million adults each year, about the same as HIV/AIDS.
Kari Rosenfeld calls the diabetes epidemic "the tidal wave that's about to hit the world."
"It's going to cripple healthcare systems around the world if we don't do something about it now," she said.
Diabetes occurs when the body has problems producing insulin, a hormone that helps sugar leave the blood and enter cells to be used as fuel.
Type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes occurs when the body produces no, or not enough, insulin; type 2, or adult-onset, diabetes occurs when the body is unable to use the insulin it produces effectively.
Its complications can be deadly and include heart disease, stroke, amputation, blindness and kidney failure. Prevention and early treatment of diabetes is inexpensive and can save untold millions, advocates say.
Clare Rosenfeld, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 7, has been a tireless diabetes advocate nearly from that day.
In 2000, she served as the first-ever National Youth Ambassador for the American Diabetes Association.
In 2002, the U.N. Youth Unit recognized the work of the International Diabetes Youth Ambassadors, an online group founded by Rosenfeld. In 2003, she was named one of Oregon's top two youth volunteers.
Now 20, the South Eugene High School graduate is a junior at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
She was 16 when she asked her mother in that kitchen table conversation, "What about the United Nations?
Kari Rosenfeld called the U.N. Youth Unit to find out what it would take to give young people the chance to speak at the United Nations.
You need to get a U.N. diabetes day, she was told, and to get a day, you need to get a resolution. To get a resolution passed, you need to find a member country to sponsor the idea.
In 2003, the Rosenfelds attended the International Diabetes Federation World Congress in Paris, where Clare spoke on the importance of involving youth and listening to youth in diabetes prevention.
Afterward, she met Silnik, then the federation's president-elect, and asked him if his group, which already had its own diabetes day, had thought about lobbying for a U.N. resolution.
"It took him completely off guard," Kari Rosenfeld said.
The Rosenfelds met with Silink the next day and explained their idea for a World Diabetes Day, so young people could speak to the world body and raise awareness about the disease.
In summer 2005, Silink asked Kari Rosenfeld to be the project manager for the U.N. resolution. In February, the IDF board approved the United for Diabetes Campaign. The People's Republic of Bangladesh offered to sponsor the resolution.
On Wednesday, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus, designating Nov. 14 as World Diabetes Day, starting next year. It calls on member states to observe the day and asks all nations to develop national policies for the prevention, treatment and care of diabetes.
The resolution is significant, Kari Rosenfeld said, because it raises awareness about the disease so that governments will recognize it as a health care priority.
"A resolution is only a piece of paper. It doesn't mandate anything or provide a law," she added.
"But a U.N. resolution states the moral will of the people. What the U.N. has said is: Diabetes is important and the world needs to listen - and the world needs to act."