On World Diabetes Day, calling attention to prevention in the U.S.

Today is World Diabetes Day, a global observation that coincides with National Diabetes Month, when organizations across the United States work to raise awareness of a disease so serious that it can cause heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure or loss of toes, feet or legs.

Diabetes affects one in 10 adults in the United States, where it is also the seventh leading cause of death. By 2025, as many as one in five Americans could have diabetes.

FHI 360 works with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand its National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP), a public–private partnership of community organizations, insurers, employers, health care organizations and government agencies working together to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes — the most common form of diabetes.

The statistics are alarming. One in three American adults has prediabetes, a condition in which they have an elevated blood glucose (sugar) level that is not quite high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Most do not even know they have it. People with prediabetes are five to 15 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. (Learn about the different types of diabetes.)

The National DPP has developed an evidence-based, structured lifestyle change program that helps to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes among people at high risk for the disease, including those with prediabetes. The curriculum is based on research that showed modest weight loss (5 percent to 7 percent of body weight) and increased physical activity (at least 150 minutes per week) cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent for those at high risk — more than with medication alone.

To increase the referral, enrollment and retention of participants in the lifestyle change program — as well as to build awareness of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes — FHI 360 has developed a brand for the National DPP lifestyle change program, which will be launched next month. The brand is memorable, empowering and distinct from commercial weight-loss programs that do not emphasize lifestyle change for disease prevention. The team has also developed a suite of materials incorporating the brand that local organizations can use to recruit participants, engage health care providers in referring patients and encourage employers and insurers to cover the program as part of health benefits packages.

Prevention of diabetes is vitally important to public health. It is also a good investment. More than one in five health care dollars in the United States are spent directly on the care of people with diabetes. In 2012, the total cost of diagnosed diabetes was US$245 billion, up 41 percent over a five-year period. This includes $176 billion in direct medical expenses. People with diagnosed diabetes incur on average $7,900 in medical expenses annually related to this condition. This is approximately 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes.1

World Diabetes Day provides an opportunity to escalate diabetes prevention efforts. With a stronger push for prevention, we can stem the tide of diabetes and improve health worldwide — a giant leap for human development.

1 American Diabetes Association. Economic costs of diabetes in the U.S. in 2012. Diabetes Care. 2013 [cited 2013 May 7];36(4):1033-46. Available from: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/4/1033.full#sec-13.

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