The Oncoming Diabetes Tidal Wave

November 30, 2009
4:21 pm

Today, members of Congress are agonizing over legislative language and Congressional Budget Office reports, trying to find the right mixture of programs and policies to make a dent in future healthcare spending growth.

If a new study from the University of Chicago is correct, much of this work will be akin to building barriers from sand to try to prevent a tidal wave rapidly encroaching upon land. 

Researchers at the university project that the number of people afflicted with diabetes will approximately double in the next 25 years, climbing from the current 23.7 million to over 44 million patients by 2034.  In Medicare spending alone, that means treatment costs for diabetes will more than triple, from $45 billion today to $171 billion in 25 years.  As the study’s lead author states, if this course doesn’t change, “we will find ourselves in a lot of trouble as a population.”  He also said our future could easily turn out worse than the University of Chicago’s predictions.

This path, however, isn’t inevitable.  Studies have shown that people who make moderate diet changes and increase their physical activity can reduce their chances of getting Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.  

At the Healthcare Leadership Council, we have urged the creation of a public-private initiative to raise health literacy throughout our population, to give people the information they need to make better dietary, exercise and lifestyle choices to improve their health.

This new data indicates that the need for such an initiative is greater than ever.

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