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Diabetes fight should be a priority

Posted by Marjorie Pritchard  November 18, 2011 02:00 PM

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John L. Brooks, 3d


Diabetes is now a global pandemic, afflicting 346 million people worldwide, and Massachusetts is squarely in the forefront of this unforgiving disease:

• About 407,000 adults are diagnosed with diabetes and another estimated 114,000 adults lhave type 2 diabetes, but do not know it.

• From 2005 through 2008, diabetes was the ninth leading cause of death in the Commonwealth.

• In 2009, nearly 5 percent of Massachusetts adults reported they had been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, which is blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

• The cost of diabetes in Massachusetts is $4.3 billion annually.

• Since 1999, there has been a 61 percent increase in the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in Massachusetts, a trend that will continue unless we all work together to change things.

Type 1 diabetes is predominantly initiated by family genetic factors. Type 2 diabetes, is accelerated by obesity, lack of exercise, lack of awareness, and a healthcare system that historically has focused on paying for downstream complications rather than prevention and proactive encouragement of healthy diets, exercise, medication adherence, and behavioral health issues.

As the United States faces the prospect of the incidence of diabetes rising from one in 10 citizens today, to one in three in the next 40 years, a new national commitment to address this disease head-on is essential.

At the Joslin Diabetes Center, we are catalyzing this call to action with the goal of a world free of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and their complications. We are reaching out across the Commonwealth to engage organizations, community centers, schools of public health and many others, to bring resources and energy to providing culturally tailored educational programs, tools, team-based resources and impactful care plans to inform and motivate families and their health teams to work collectively to reverse or slow this relentless diabetes tidal wave.

On November 19 our community of doctors, patients, families, friends and advocates will gather for Joslin’s annual High Hopes Gala and World Diabetes Day Celebration, our most important night of the year. This event supports innovation and research aimed at creating a world free of diabetes and its complications.

We must build partnerships and cost-effective, risk-sharing collaborations with other healthcare providers, payers, and federal, state and city agencies to share and leverage our expertise in novel and measurable ways. This is what is needed to help patients, families, primary care doctors and other healthcare providers and payers to tackle this disease and its dreaded complications. We must make this a priority. Our lives -- and the lives of our loved ones -- depend on it.

John L. Brooks 3d is president and CEO of the Joslin Diabetes Center.


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