The Business Implications of Diabetes: One in 10 Afflicted by 2030.

By November 15, 2011Communications

The International Diabetes Federation is reporting that people living with diabetes will number 552 million by 2030 unless urgent action is taken.  The kind of diabetes referenced is Type 2, commonly caused by obesity and resulting in symptoms such as kidney failure, heart disease and failing eyesight. (Personal note: I have had dozens of family members with Type 2 diabetes and have supported the American Diabetes Association for many years.)

Diabetes is an expensive disease; pharmaceutical companies provide medications, insulin and products to help patients monitor and track their blood sugar levels. The problem is, that patients with diabetes often go undiagnosed or reject the diagnosis because the lifestyle changes and diet required to manage diabetes or avoid it are not easy, and often people diagnosed later in life aren’t interested in making major life changes. This inevitably leads to serious complications; strokes, heart attacks, poor circulation sometimes resulting in amputations, kidney failure and eye disease. In other words, more, longer-term health problems that are costly to the patient and the health care system.

I’ve been involved with organizations trying to spread the word about ways to manage your life with diabetes. We’ve done outreach to at-risk communities, worked with medical professionals to provide motivating language to patients, delivered help and education to patients to help them better understand the risks of the disease and how important managing diet and getting exercise is before and after diagnosis. It’s often an uphill battle — not unlike encouraging smokers to throw away their cigarettes.

Since, as a nation, we’re focusing on the business of health care and how it affects our economy, our citizens and our quality of life, the confluence of this report and the Supreme Court review of the Obama administrations health care bill  is interesting. Since dramatic change is unlikely to occur quickly enough to change the prediction of the increase in diabetes patients, our health care initiatives would do well to plan for one in 10 Americans to be facing serious health issues in a mere 20 years. That’s frightening from a financial and a cultural perspective.

How can we effectively communicate to Americans the need to maintain a healthy diet, exercise and avoid this disease? For some, scare tactics work, whether it’s the financial cost of the disease or the toll its symptoms take on the patient. The frustrating part of the diabetes diagnosis is this: it’s entirely preventable. The trouble is, each person has to make up his or her mind to care, and to change behaviors. It’s not easy, but in the end, it saves us all money and keeps our loved ones around and enjoying life much longer.


  • KenMueller says:

    This is something I think about a lot since my dad has Type 2 Diabetes. Compound that with heart disease and two strokes, and taking care of him, and the delicate balance of meds in his life, becomes complicated. I hope and pray that that I don’t have to deal with any of those things, especially in this culture where many of us, including me, don’t have health insurance.

    I think that’s the other scary thing, as more of us move away from jobs with benefit packages, to working for ourselves and facing the great expenses associated with insurance.

  • drgarnecki says:

    you nailed it by mentioning prevention. our western American culture consumes processed, packaged foods, or fast foods with little thought to how those “addictive” foods laden with toxins and chemicals will affect health short-term and long-term. food may seem inexpensive in a box, but the cost comes later with health care. i don’t think there is an easy answer when it comes to getting Americans more in touch with food and farming (that’s where it can begin)–where thoughtful gardening and good farming practices can create better tasting and more nutrient-dense foods void of bacteria and disease in monoculture farming. encouraging people to engage in “work” that isn’t sedentary–the worst postural position on the spine–or for kids to go outside and play instead of plug-in on the gaming console or smart phone.

    more and more children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by age 12 in America . . . most of them are minority cultures with lower socioeconomic status.

    i hope the realization of the direct impact of diet (food choices) and activity (or lack therof) and health continues to grow . . . even if slowly and surely.

    Charlottesville is a unique group of cultures (farming and urban, locavore-loving, highly educated) that embraces preventative health and better food choice practices better than the majority of places in the United States (I can say that after living in the midwest, southwest, southeast, northeast, and pacific coasts–and yeah, there are some healthypeople2010 studies, too).

    would the “don’t smoke” campaign strategies work the same with and “avoid sugar…processed foods” campaign?