Curbing the Diabetes Epidemic

The growing prevalence of individuals diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. is reaching epidemic proportions. A 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 30.3 million Americans now have the condition and an additional 84.1 million have prediabetes—which may develop into diabetes within five years if left untreated. Meanwhile, the financial burden is growing even more quickly.

Medical expenses for those with diabetes tend to be twice as high as for those without. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports the economic costs of the condition reached $322 billion in 2017—up from $245 million four years earlier. This reflects direct medical expenses (e.g., hospital and emergency care, office visits, medications) as well as indirect costs (e.g., absenteeism, reduced productivity, unemployment caused by diabetes-related disability). The rising cost of insulin is also a concern: the average price nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013. And employees with diabetes miss 57 million additional days of work each year, according to Gallup and ShareCare Diabetes Solutions, costing employers $20.4 billion annually.

If the trend is not curbed, researchers worry that as many as one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050. To make matters worse, many individuals with type-2 diabetes or prediabetes are unaware they even have the condition.

Public health officials and the medical community are working to combat the impact and prevalence of type 2 diabetes by promoting access to prevention education and healthier lifestyles, with a focus on nutrition and physical activity. The CDC and ADA encourage screening and testing for patients with prediabetes to prevent more serious health problems; diabetes self-management programs and other control intervention policies are also recommended to help manage the condition. In addition, numerous companies are developing online medical clinics to monitor patients’ blood levels, diets and activity, and provide remote guidance from physicians and lifestyle coaches.

Employers can access the CDC’s Diabetes Prevention Impact Toolkit to estimate the health benefits and economic savings of providing lifestyle change programs for their employees. Visit nccd.cdc.gov/toolkit/diabetesimpact for more information. iBi

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