12 Nov 2018
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Understanding the Diabetes Epidemic in the United States

Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and millions more fall into the prediabetic category. Diabetes is an epidemic which is affecting quality of life and health care costs exponentially. Understanding the diabetes epidemic in the United States is not an easy feat, but education is key to solving the crisis.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is completely preventable. Poor dietary and exercise habits affect the body so profoundly that the body becomes unable to create enough insulin to process glucose in the blood. This results in the need to begin taking insulin. In addition, type 2 diabetes exacerbates other health conditions, like heart disease and nervous system function.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2015 about 30 million people in the United States had type 2 diabetes. Shockingly, about 80 million more had prediabetes, which usually leads to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes within about 5 years.

The Effect of Type 2 Diabetes on HealthCare

The fact is, type 2 diabetes is costing all Americans money in the healthcare sector. According to the American Diabetes Association, $327 billion is spent on diabetes in 2017 alone, which is a 25% increase from 2012.

For some perspective, the same report goes on to read:

“People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of $16,752 per year, of which about $9,601 is attributed to diabetes. People with diagnosed diabetes, on average, have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.”

The costs associated with diabetes are a burden not only to those with diabetes but to those who participate in the healthcare space. This burden drives up health care costs for everyone, not just those trying to manage this disease. Few people understand the economic impact of diabetes.

Addressing the Diabetes Epidemic

The United States government is working diligently to address the diabetes epidemic.

The CDC has established a National Diabetes Prevention program, which focuses on steering individuals towards healthier dietary habits and daily exercise. This program is focused on implementing lifestyle changes and offers classes to those interested in participating.

Prevent Diabetes STAT is a program developed by the American Medical Association and the CDC. This program includes self-assessments, educational tools, and the rationale behind the program’s efforts and suggestions.

There are also efforts to address the diabetes epidemic on a local level. Many cities and school districts have adopted healthier eating standards for meals served in schools, or offer after-school programs related to farm-fresh foods or gardening.

What Can I Do?

As an individual, there are two things that you can do to contribute positively towards this cause. First, educate yourself and those around about the effect of diabetes on not just overall health, but the economy. Second, make healthy dietary and exercise choices so you can lead by example in your community.

Understanding the diabetes epidemic is probably far more complicated than you anticipated. Through education, we can all come to understand how diabetes is affecting the health of individuals, but also health care in the United States. Knowing how you can play a role makes you a more informed citizen, voter, and healthcare participant.


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