Every year, 1.7 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed, and 1 out of every 3 adults in the United States could have diabetes by 2050.

Diabetes: A Public Health Concern

By Samer Koutoubi, MD, PhD
Program Director and Faculty Member, Public Health at American Public University

A public health plan is needed to reverse the diabetes epidemic in the United States and the world. Diabetes is a preventable disease and, with early detection, lifestyle modifications, and therapy, we can prevent and reduce diabetes rates.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of adults with diagnosed diabetes in the United States nearly quadrupled, from 5.5 million to 21.3 million, from 1980 through 2012. Every year, 1.7 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed, and 1 out of every 3 adults in the United States could have diabetes by 2050.

Unfortunately, about 8.1 million people with diabetes do not know they have the disease,and 57 million Americans are at a higher risk of developing diabetes due to high blood glucose levels.

The minority populations in the United State are at higher risk of developing diabetes. Blacks, Hispanics, Native Hawaiians, and some Asian Americans are hit hard and have high incidence and prevalence of diabetes. It is predicted that half of all Hispanic men and women and non-Hispanic black women will develop diabetes during their lifetime.

A Public Health systematic approach at multiple levels is needed to prevent and treat diabetes. This should include educational efforts targeting individuals, families, and every community affected by this disease. A healthy and diabetes-free community starts with a healthy and diabetes-free individual.

All private sectors and the government have the responsibility to develop and maintain a healthy community. This means that applying prevention strategies can be very helpful and effective in decreasing the incidents of diabetes.

It has been proven that lifestyle modifications, changes in dietary and eating behaviors, weight loss, increased physical activity, and stress reduction are very effective in preventing diabetes. Integrating and following a lifestyle diabetes prevention program can be a life-saving. Also, daily monitoring of blood glucose levels and testing for HbA1c as a component of diagnosing diabetes is very effective. Identifying personal and family risk factors of diabetes and other chronic diseases early is also important.

Providing appropriate access to high-quality care is extremely useful in preventing and treating diabetes. This can be done at local community centers and healthcare facilities where routine general checkup exams, including eye testing and foot care, can be done to reduce the risk of complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed a National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP), which is an evidence-based lifestyle change program for preventing type 2 diabetes. The program stresses education, dietary changes, coping skills, and group activities to help participants lose a moderate amount of weight and get at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity. Trained lifestyle coaches give participants guidance and support.

The program encourages collaboration between federal agencies, community organizations, employers, insurers, health care professionals, academia, and other stakeholders. For more information, including if a program is offered in your community, visit the National Diabetes Prevention Program website.

About the Author

Dr. Koutoubi earned his PhD in Dietetics and Nutrition from Florida International University in 2001. He earned his MD degree in 1988 from Iuliu Hațieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Dr. Koutoubi’s research focuses on coronary heart disease among tri-ethnic groups including African Americans, Caucasians and Hispanics. His interest is in disease prevention and wellness, epidemiological research, cardiovascular disease and nutrition, homocysteine metabolism, lipoprotein metabolism, and cultural food and health. He has also authored a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals and wrote a book review. He served as the Editor-in-Chief for The Internet Journal of Alternative Medicine and reviewed manuscripts for The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Ethnicity and Disease Journal, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and The Journal of The National Medical Association. Dr. Koutoubi has also been quoted in national magazines and newspapers including, Natural Health Magazine, Energy Time, Well Being Journal, Northwest Prime Time, and Natural Food Merchandiser.

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