On June 12, 2012, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and India’s Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad signed a joint statement to begin a formal research relationship between the National Institutes of Health and the Indian Council of Medical Research to accelerate efforts to better understand the mechanisms underlying diabetes, and to identify innovative solutions to prevent and treat the disease.
About 26 million Americans have diabetes, and in India the burden may be at least twice that. Both countries share this public health problem and both countries already conduct substantial research, including examining lifestyle interventions and metformin to prevent diabetes. The joint statement provides greater opportunities for collaborative projects ranging from research to identify genes for diabetes to bettering public health efforts to manage and treat of diabetes.
“Both the United States and India have a vested interest in improving our understanding of and treatment for diabetes, and in finding economical ways to do both,” said Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which will lead the U.S. role in the collaboration. “Initiating this research relationship will enable both countries to share expertise and engage each other in research to lessen the burden of diabetes – in the U.S., India, and around the world.”
One potential area of collaboration may be in studying why people of South Asian origin develop diabetes at a lower body mass index and waist circumference than people of other ethnic origins – a question of interest to both India and the U.S., with its large South Asian population. A first step in partnering will be a scientific meeting.