March 14, 2013

New Diabetes Numbers – Sound the Alert LOUDER

While we were experiencing a much ado about nothing “snow storm” in Washington, DC on March 6, 2013, hundreds of diabetes advocates were storming Capitol Hill for a cause we should be doing much about.

To kick off their advocacy day the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) released findings from a report they commissioned, Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2012, at a press conference. Joining ADA leaders at the press event were Ann Albright, PhD, RD, director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, Judith Fradkin, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health’s division which encompasses diabetes (NIDDK) and several key members of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Jean Shaheen (D-NH) (who has a granddaughter with type 1 diabetes I learned at AADE's advocacy day in 2012).

The stats presented by ADA are downright scary! It is, without a doubt, time to sound the alert about our prediabetes and type 2 diabetes epidemics louder and louder.

Check out a few key stats.* Read through these slowly and repeatedly, it takes a few readings to absorb their impact!

  • 26 million children and adults are living with diabetes. (It’s well known that about 6 million or so people currently have diabetes but have not yet been diagnosed.) So the number of people with diabetes is closer to 30 million. Based on the current U.S. population, about 314 million, that’s roughly 9.5% of the U.S. population.  
  • 79 million people are estimated to have prediabetes which places them at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. CDC estimates that’s about 35% of all adults over the age of 20 and 50% of adults over 65 years of age (yes, you read that correctly!). (Unfortunately research shows that barely 8% of these people know they have it).
  • $245 billion dollars/year are spent on taking care of people with diabetes and the related diabetes complications. That’s one in 10 healthcare dollars. Caring for diabetes is rising at a rate higher than overall medical costs. This cost figure represents an increase from $174 billion, the estimate from the 2007 ADA report - a 41% increase over the five year period. The estimated costs include direct medical costs of $176 billion (hospital and emergency care, office visits and medications) and indirect medical costs of $69 billion (employee absenteeism, reduced productivity, unemployment caused by diabetes-related disability and lost productivity due to early mortality).
  • Medical expenditures for people with diabetes were estimated to be 2.3 times higher than for those without diabetes. 
  • The primary driver of the increased expenditures is due to the increase in prevalence of diabetes – so the pure increase in numbers of people with diabetes - not, says the ADA report, from an increase in medications, supplies, etc.

(*This study includes a detailed breakdown of costs along gender, racial and ethnic lines, and also includes a breakdown of costs on a state-by-state basis. The results of this study will be published in ADA’s clinical journal Diabetes Care in April 2013.) 

And as if these stats aren’t mind blowing enough, other data shows that we are nowhere near getting a handle on controlling this epidemic. According to the ADA press release (and CDC), recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050!

When oh when will we begin as a nation to take diabetes seriously?

We increasingly need to sound the diabetes alert – to raise awareness of prediabtes and type 2 diabetes. It’s clear that we’ve not been sounding the alert loud enough.You’ve got another chance to do so just around the corner.

Yes, ADA’s Diabetes Alert Day is Tuesday, March 26, 2013. ADA refers to this day as “a one-day "wake-up call" to ask the American public to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they (a family member, friend, co-workers, anyone) is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Point people to the Diabetes Risk Test which takes no more than 30 seconds to complete the handful of questions about current weight, age, family history and other potential risk factors.

But, please don’t wait for Diabetes Alert Day or Diabetes Month in November to sound the alert or take action with your own health, feel free to join me in sounding the alert about overweight, prediabetes and type 2 EVERYDAY. We know today that there is stronger evidence than ever before that the earlier a person knows they are at risk for or has prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, the earlier they can take healthy lifestyle actions to reverse or slow/delay the progression of both prediabetes and type 2.

And if you are inclined to take action on pending legislation, keep a watch on Federal diabetes legislation at the Congressional Diabetes Caucus or ADA’s Advocacy efforts. I encourage you to take action wherever, whenever you can.