Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease, associated with serious complications and co-morbidity and considerable costs. The number of people with diabetes mellitus is expected to increase with 40% in the next decade, due to prolonged life expectancy, the ageing of the population and developments in the health care sector, including more active screening strategies. The majority (40-60%) of type 2 diabetes patients in routine GP practice have a poor metabolic control (HbA1c > 8% or fasting blood glucose > 11 mmol/l). In this paper the obstacles in routine clinical practice for optimal type 2 diabetes care are discussed. Long-term complications are the major cause of morbidity and mortality in type 2 diabetes patients. Therefore, the primary aim of type 2 diabetes management is the prevention of complications, by lowering blood glucose levels and reducing the cardiovascular risk profile. An important component of type 2 diabetes management is an active role of the patient: diet, smoking habits, physical exercise and self-care behavior often need to change. In addition, the patient has to adhere to life long medical therapy. Motivating the patient for this active role is the challenge for health care providers. A complicating factor is that changes in lifestyle do not give immediate benefit for the patient, as the effects are seen in the reduction of the development of long-term complications. The cornerstones of health care to support active patient participation are: to guarantee the continuity of care, to integrate education in health care and to encourage the patient's attendance. It is the challenge for physicians to give type 2 diabetes patients the tools for active participation in the management of the disease.