Going to doctors in large hospitals for treatment and taking prescribed medication is not adequate for containing diabetes, said Yang Wenying, chairwoman of the Chinese Diabetes Society.
"We need qualified educators to help patients combat the chronic disease," Yang said at the launching ceremony of the Jonson-Jonson Diabetes Institute on Friday.
Every year, about 1.2 million people develop diabetes in China, with more than 30 percent unaware that they have the disease, Yang said.
Similarly, there is a common misconception of the disease - many believe that it is not lethal as related deaths are often from the complications that come with it rather than the disease itself, experts have said.
Diabetes sufferers are at risk of many other diseases and premature death as it damages body tissue.
It can lead to stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, blindness.
Worldwide, about 3.8 million deaths are attributed to diabetes every year, World Health Organization statistics show.
"The low awareness and poor knowledge among the general public are largely due to the lack of a nationwide standardized diabetes management system and professionals in the field," Professor Fu Zhuzhi of the No. 2 Hospital affiliated with Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong, said.
Under the country's current healthcare system, there are no professional diabetes educators who are usually available at the grassroots-level clinics in most developed countries in the world, he said.
Healthcare workers at the grassroots here are not trained in diabetes management including complication screening, raising awareness of the disease and prevention, Fu said.
"Previously, the health authorities were more likely to be distracted by more immediate threats like SARS and bird flu," said Kong Lingzhi, deputy director of the disease prevention and control bureau of the Health Ministry.
Now, with full recognition of disease as a health threat that can cause numerous fatalities and economic losses every year, the government has been coming up with relevant policies and measures to deal with the scourge, she said.
"The top priority in the battle against diabetes is to fully involve healthcare providers at the grassroots," Kong said.
In the next five years, the Jonson-Jonson Diabetes Institute is expected to train 16,000 diabetes educators at the grassroots level, certified by the ministry, to help fight the disease, she said.
Apart from nurses, nutritionists and trained patients can also act as educators, she said.
"Only with an in-depth understanding of patients' personalities, the disease, and health, can the educators do a good job."