Managing Diabetes: It’s Personal and Political

Diabetes in the U.S. is out of control and also on the rise in most developed countries.  With Americans at a 66% overweight/obesity rate, it’s really not a surprise.  In fact, right now about 10% of the adult population currently has diabetes.  Some believe those numbers could double or even triple in the next 10 years.

Recently state and federal governments have been getting involved to help curb the rise in diabetes.  The Center for Disease Control estimates the U.S. spends $174 billion per year managing patients with diabetes.  If we could drastically reduce just this one disease, we could practically cure the Medicaid problem single-handedly.

A new program is focusing on education and support.  In Massachusetts, state-run programs are now sending social workers right to people’s homes to help them with nutrition and exercise compliance.  Other programs at community health centers include support groups with access to medical experts, cooking, and exercise classes.

An NIH study found that if pre-diabetics lost five to seven percent of their body weight and exercised for a minimum of 150 minutes per week their risk of developing full-blown diabetes dropped by 58%.

This article from The Boston Globe paints a bleak landscape of rising diabetic rates and dropping life expectancies but it is such a simple solution.

Move more, eat less, be consistent.

We can perform $100,000 surgeries to clean up after the disease or plow 10% of that money into an individual to help educate and motivate them to lose weight and live more healthfully.  A 200 pound person only needs to lose 10 to 14 pounds to see a big, positive impact on their health.  Is that really too much to ask?

I’ve been saying for a while now that the cornerstone to fixing the economy is our health.  We need to empower our doctors to give fitness and nutrition prescriptions and we need to encourage our federal government to back it up heavily with some pretty big dollars. If we spend $174 billion a year to treat diabetes, how much less would we need to prevent it in the first place?  And that’s just diabetes; we’re not talking heart disease, cancer, and several other obesity-related diseases.

Should we back up the government’s efforts by legislating obesity?  What do you think?  How do we connect with people who are pre-diabetic to help them before they develop the chronic, life-threatening complications of diabetes?  I’d love to know your thoughts.