Diabetes is on the rise across the United States, posing a significant health risk for millions of Americans. Currently the seventh leading cause of death in the country, it could affect as many as one in three adults by 2050. On December 6, The Hill newspaper convened lawmakers, medical experts, and patient advocates for a briefing on diabetes to address the challenge it poses to society, the economy and the health care industry.
Representative Tom Reed (R-NY), co-chair, Congressional Diabetes Caucus, shared the personal story of his son who was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes at four-years-old. “It’s a 24/7, 365 days a year disease, and we must continue to raise awareness for diabetes.” The 21st Century Cures Act, he said, is an important step forward to finding new treatments for diseases like diabetes. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL), chair, Congressional Black Caucus Health BrainTrust, agreed, emphasizing that more investments are needed across the health care ecosystem, from research to prevention programs. She also said diversifying the workforce and addressing health disparities must be a priority.
“Hispanics are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to non-Hispanic Whites,” said Paul Baker, senior director for programs, National Alliance for Hispanic Health. Language proficiency, transportation, childcare and mixed immigration statuses are challenges faced by communities disproportionately affected by diabetes, he added.
Evidence-based care coordination is critical to addressing disease management, said Ken Thorpe, chairman, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. “Many patients with diabetes have other additional chronic health conditions, and we have to focus on whole person care.”
Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO, PhRMA and Scott Whitaker, president and CEO, AdvaMed, described industry breakthroughs that help manage diabetes, such as continuous glucose monitors that integrate with smartphones, providing real-time alerts if an individual’s blood sugar is too high or too low. “These technologies can change the life of a child and a parent,” said Whitaker.
Other panelists included: Karen Kmetik, group vice president, American Medical Association; Barbara Linder, M.D., senior advisor, Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases, NIH, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases; and Celeste James, director, community health initiatives, Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic.