Public Health

Study Shows Need for Chronic Disease Prevention

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A study released earlier this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds fifteen states in the southeast U.S. to have the highest prevalence of diabetes in the country. This region – already referred to as the “stroke belt” – now also holds the title of “diabetes belt.” The CDC report, which appeared in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, finds that nearly 12 percent of people in the “diabetes belt” suffer from the disease – almost 3.5 percent higher than the national average. With approximately 26 million Americans currently living with diabetes, the ADA also notes that treatment costs account for more than $100 billion in healthcare spending each year. It is clear from this report that the need for continued chronic disease prevention and management policies is immediate, and the CDC’s report simply reiterates the growing urgency to address the escalating costs and effects of unmanaged diabetes. The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease applauds the recent steps being taken to reduce the national burden of chronic disease – particularly President Obama’s proposed budget which includes a $1 billion allocation within the Prevention and Public Health Fund, but the journey toward comprehensive disease management has just begun. Chronic disease will continue to be the main contributor to rising healthcare costs unless we enact effective policies now. The good news is intensive lifestyle interventions, such as the diabetes prevention program, have been shown in randomized trials to reduce weight and chronic disease incidence. Targeting overweight prediabetic adults resulted in a 7 percent weight loss and a 58 percent reduction in the incidence of diabetes relative to placebo. Medicare could learn from these results as they were even more impressive for those aged 60 and over-a 71 percent reduction in diabetes incidence. Making these evidence-based programs available nationally-through the prevention and public health trust fund, or other CDC funding-are precisely the types of common sense initiatives health reform should be pursuing. They improve health and will reduce health care spending. Chronic diseases, including those resulting from diabetes, are responsible for seven out of 10 deaths and affect more than 130 million Americans. The annual economic impact on the U.S. of the seven most common chronic diseases is estimated to be $1.3 trillion, which could balloon to nearly $6 trillion by 2050. Because of the information such as this and the recent CDC diabetes study, PFCD and its partners have actively been urging for the prevention and management of chronic disease as a cornerstone of comprehensive health reform.

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