Shanghai health authorities have launched a television drama series to educate the public about diabetes - one of the major health problems on the mainland. The four-episode series There is Love on the Journey of Battling Diabetes, initiated by the Ministry of Health and Shanghai's Health Bureau, was launched yesterday to mark World Diabetes Day. 'In fighting diabetes, doctors are not the key actors or actresses, but the patients themselves,' said Dr Hu Renming, a top mainland endocrinologist who proposed the idea for the show. Based on a true story, the programme follows a 28-year-old man who is barred from marrying his lover by the woman's parents and who later slips into a coma in hospital because of acute diabetes. The man later regains consciousness and, pressured to do so, suggests he and his girlfriend should break up. But the woman, still in love, vows instead to learn more about the disease. She and her parents join a support group, where they learn that diabetes can be prevented or kept under control. The drama ends happily with the young couple's wedding. Hu, who specialises in diabetes treatment at Shanghai's Huashan Hospital, chose the soap-opera format for the awareness campaign - which he said was the first of its kind - because 'vivid and close-to-life' diabetes education was crucial. 'Usually we hold lectures, which are so boring. What's more, patients told me that they attended some classes and soon forgot what had been taught,' he said. 'So it's impossible for them to implement these guidelines in their lives.' The series will be sent to select clinics and communities over the next two months before authorities make a final decision on the best distribution channel, Hu said. There are 92.4 million diabetes patients aged 20 or above on the mainland, with another 150 million in a pre-diabetic state, according to data published by mainland researchers in The New England Journal of Medicine last year. Based on this study, the Brussels-based International Diabetes Federation declared China had overtaken India as the nation with the most diabetics. Hu said only 60 per cent of the mainland's diabetics aged 20 or over have sought hospital treatment, with the rest unaware of their disease. A third of those under treatment have kept their blood sugar levels under control. Diabetes, the cause of which has not been completely identified, is a lifelong disease and that increases the risk of malfunction in the eyes, kidneys and cardiovascular system. Dr Zeng Longyi, from the Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said unhealthy lifestyles like poor diet and little exercise added to the problem. He said diabetes campaigns should be attractive enough to interest the general public. 'There are many underground advertisements for illegal clinics which even claim that diabetes patients don't have to limit their food and this disease can be eradicated,' Zeng said. 'Unfortunately some people believe in them.' Diabetes is also spreading among teenagers and children. A Xinhua report, citing a doctor, said 10 per cent of diabetes patients at Hebei Medical University's No 1 Hospital were under the age of 20, with the youngest being four years old.