In the world of diabetes a number of outdated terms are still in use and some myths exist. Among the former are 'juvenile onset' and 'maturity onset' which, given the changing epidemiology of diabetes, need to be abandoned once and for all. A dangerous myth is that type 2 diabetes is 'mild diabetes'. Diabetes, particularly that of longer duration, but whether type 1 or type 2, is associated with microvascular and macrovascular complications. The former comprise retinopathy, nephropathy and neuropathy, the latter coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and peripheral vascular disease. The public health challenges of diabetes are that of delivering effective health care to meet current demands and planning for the future to cope with the predicted epidemic of diabetes worldwide. The latter can only be accomplished if primary prevention is taken seriously as the main method by which future demands can be decreased to a sustainable level.