About 10 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed daily as having diabetes, it has emerged.
Health professionals have described the figure as "shocking" and say the Department of Health must act.
Unlike England, Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland does not have a specific diabetes strategy.
However, the department said more than £40m had been set aside to tackle chronic conditions, including diabetes, over three years.
Institute of Public Health chief executive Jane Wilde said the rise in diabetes was probably due to increasing levels of obesity.
"Some people would describe it as a time-bomb - I would rather say we face a major public health challenge," she said.
"Already this is having a big impact on our health service, and we would expect this to rise hugely in the years ahead.
"People are talking about diabetes actually swamping the health service."