Diabetes is a growing epidemic that brings with it both individual suffering and extraordinary economic consequences. Health care professionals who focus on diabetes know the grim statistics: nearly 26 million people in the United States have diabetes, and another 79 million have prediabetes. Every 17 seconds, another American is diagnosed with diabetes and, if current trends continue, one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050.
Diabetes and its complications threaten to overwhelm the nation's health care system. The total cost of diabetes and its complications, along with gestational diabetes and prediabetes, was estimated to be $218 billion in 2007.1 Medical expenditures resulting from diabetes totaled $116 billion, including $27 billion for diabetes care, $58 billion for chronic diabetes-related complications, and $31 billion for excess general medical costs.2 Additional costs included $18 billion for undiagnosed diabetes, $25 billion for prediabetes, and $623 million for gestational diabetes.2 These costs comprise a significant portion of our country's overall health care expenses.2 One in five health care dollars is spent caring for people with diabetes,2 and one-third of Medicare expenses are associated with treating diabetes and its complications.3 Indirect costs resulting from increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, disease-related unemployment disability, and loss of productive capacity because of early mortality totaled $58 billion.2
The goal for diabetes advocates, including health care professionals, is to convince those who create our public policies that slowing these alarming trends and focusing on prevention of type 2 diabetes must be a national priority. Those who decide how our public resources are allocated must understand both the seriousness of diabetes and that there is scientific support for efforts to stem this national epidemic.
The good news is that, after more than a decade of research, an extraordinarily promising intervention has emerged. A …