Managing Diabetes: A Public Health Perspective

Diabetes, the metabolic disease which causes the elevated levels of glucose in the blood due to the body’s inability to either produce or respond to insulin, is becoming a serious concern for public health professionals. According to the CDC, 1.7 million adults were newly diagnosed with diabetes in 2012 alone. The CDC states that 9.3 percent of the US population currently suffers from diabetes. Dr. Ann Albright, director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, expressed her concern:

“These new numbers are alarming and underscore the need for an increased focus on reducing the burden of diabetes in our country. Diabetes is costly in both human and economic terms. It’s urgent that we take swift action to effectively treat and prevent this serious disease.”

Diabetes currently remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) references 2010, when 69,071 death certificates listed diabetes as the underlying cause of death. Alongside those numbers were the 234,051 death certificates that listed diabetes as an underlying or contributing cause of death. The ADA states that 35% to 40% of people with diabetes who died had diabetes listed anywhere on the death certificate and about 10% to 15% had it listed as the underlying cause of death.

diabetesAs Ann Albright mentioned in her statement, diabetes not only takes a toll on the lives of those suffering from the disease, but also brings economic burden. The ADA study, Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2012, shows that the cost of diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity. On average, those with diagnosed diabetes have medical costs that are approximately 2.3 times higher than those who do not have diabetes.

Although the numbers can be disheartening, there is a silver lining. With many public health officials becoming more aware of the issue, the nation can work as a whole to lower the cost of diabetes by improving diabetes care in the US. Advances in mobile technology, such as apps that allow diabetes patients to check glucose levels or manage sugar and carb intake on their phones are empowering patients to better manage their disease. On top of that, there have been many health care initiatives, such as the New York City A1C registry, that are currently working towards providing knowledge and better care for those living with diabetes. Additionally, Health Monitoring Systems is currently working to develop system enhancements to better assist public health, healthcare providers, and healthcare payers with tracking chronic diseases like diabetes and providing insight into regional trends and clinical outcomes.