National Diabetes Month Overview
Every 21 seconds, an American is diagnosed with diabetes. According to the American Diabetic Association (ADA), diabetes kills more Americans than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Read on to learn more about why we need a national diabetes awareness day, not just national diabetes month, and what you can do to help spread the word.
Why We Need a National Diabetes Month
Here are more statistics that you should know (from the CDC):
- Diabetes is the 7th most common cause of death in the United States.
- Many people don’t know they have diabetes until it becomes life-threatening. Of the 10.5 percent of diabetics in the U.S., 7.3 million of them have not been diagnosed.
- One-third of American adults, or 88 million people, have prediabetes. Of those, 84 percent don’t know they have it.
- The number of people diagnosed with diabetes is increasing, including among children. In 2020, the CDC reported that between 2002 and 2015, diabetes type 2 increased 4.8 percent per year among children and teens, and diabetes type 1 increased by 1.9 percent.
Few people are aware of these startling statistics. Many of us are also unaware of how challenging living with diabetes can be. This is why Ronald Reagan made National Diabetes Awareness Month official in 1982 (though some organizations have been recognizing it since 1975).
The International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization also recognized the need. They teamed up in 1991 to designate November 14 World Diabetes Day.
Diabetes Awareness Is More Important Than Ever
To those of us who don’t have to think about diabetes every day, these numbers and awareness efforts may not mean much. But there are some excellent reasons why everyone should know more about this deadly disease. Here are a few:
The Cost of Insulin Is Skyrocketing
Over seven million Americans depend on insulin for their diabetes, but the cost is out of control. One in four diabetes patients in the U.S. ration their insulin by taking lower doses than prescribed or skipping doses.
According to a 2018 study, the estimated cost to create a vial of insulin is less than $10. Yet the cost to consumers can be hundreds of dollars for that same vial. In fact, insulin prices tripled between 2002 and 2013. Then, from 2012 to 2016, prices doubled again.
A presidential executive order recently capped the co-pay for insulin at $35 per month. The plan takes effect on January 1, 2021, but it only applies to Medicare recipients who have Part D prescription coverage. The plan does nothing to help those without Medicare Part D or with no insurance at all.
Access to Care Is a Problem for Many
Patients who live in rural areas are another underserved group. Research shows that access to diabetic care is scarce in rural regions, and patients often have to travel long distances to see a provider.
Rural patients also tend to have lower incomes, so they may not see a doctor as often as recommended for diabetes care. In addition, they’re more likely to see general practitioners for all of their care because of a shortage of diabetes specialists.
In light of these hardships, these patients are less likely to be compliant with their diabetic regimens and in poorer health overall than those with better access to care.
COVID-19 Has Caused New Financial Concerns
The affordability issue is made worse for many people with diabetes because of COVID-19-related job losses and the resulting lack of insurance. Many are making tough decisions for the first time — whether to buy groceries or life-saving insulin, for example. This story is a familiar one since long before COVID hit, but the situation is worse now that so many have lost their insurance.
Again, patients in rural areas are affected more by the COVID pandemic. The rise in telehealth visits has improved care for some. But others have no Internet access, so telehealth visits are not an option for them.
“Prediabetes”: Early Warning Means Better Prevention
One reason for an increased need for awareness is seen by many as a positive one. In 2009, the American Diabetic Association (ADA) introduced a new term—prediabetes–and new blood glucose guidelines to go with it.
A decade later, there is still some controversy about prediabetes, but these guidelines give providers a tool to identify individuals at high risk for type 2 diabetes.
With lifestyle changes and monitoring, prediabetes can be reversed before it progresses to full-fledged type 2 diabetes. But it won’t work if people don’t know about it.
How You Can Help
If you’re interested in getting involved in diabetes awareness efforts, the following action items are a good place to start:
- Talk about it. Have conversations with friends and family who may be at high risk for diabetes. Encourage them to have regular checkups and ask their doctors if they should have prediabetes screening.
- Pass it on. Social media is a powerful platform for sharing information. You’re likely to come across informational items in your feeds this month. Hitting Share is a fast and easy way to assist in spreading a virus — the good kind. (Here’s a Facebook post to get you started.)
- Consider the kids. If you have children, encourage exercise and a healthy diet for the entire family. Know the risk factors, symptoms, and testing guidelines for diabetes type 1 and type 2 in youth and pass them on. Talk to your pediatrician if you see anything suspicious.
- Be a role model. If you don’t have diabetes, learn how to prevent it. If you already have diabetes, practice good self-care to keep it under control.
- Assess your own risk. Take the ADA’s risk assessment test. It’s an online tool that evaluates your diabetes risk and takes less than one minute to complete.
- Sign up for a National Diabetes Month fundraising event. The ADA’s Step Out walk (being held virtually this year) or the Tour de Cure for cyclists are two good examples.
- If you’re not able to participate in an event, consider a donation to help support diabetes research and those who are living with diabetes.
How do You Plan to Recognize National Diabetes Month?
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