From the desk of Sean Duffy, Co-founder & CEO @ Omada Health
How can any responsible health company make such a cavalier statement? Diabetes is no laughing matter. It’s a debilitating disease that can lead to blindness, amputations, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and more. And its prevalence is growing at a jaw-dropping pace. On April 6, World Health Organization (WHO) published the first Global Report on Diabetes. With it came the news that cases of diabetes had quadrupled between 1980 and 2014. Quadrupled! From 108 million to 422 million in one generation.
WHO’s statement combined both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but stated, “The majority of people with diabetes are affected by type 2 diabetes.” Together, they’re the 8th leading cause of death, claiming 1.5 million people in 2012, up 50% since 2000. Another 2.2 million deaths are linked to high blood sugar levels — a.k.a. prediabetes. In light of all this, WHO is focusing their efforts on drawing attention to the need to step up prevention and treatment of the disease.
Wow. The strongest voice in international health has issued a call to action for the global community to dial up type 2 diabetes prevention. This puts prediabetes smack-dab in the spotlight. And that’s exactly where you want it to be if you’re struggling with elevated blood sugar levels, or — more likely — if you’re not even aware that yours are high.
You want healthcare industries, policy makers and world leaders to be talking about strategies for stopping prediabetes from blooming into type 2 diabetes. You want economists looking at the costs of type 2 diabetes management and its drain on healthcare dollars. You want business leaders looking for ways to reduce employees’ risk of type 2 diabetes as a way of improving profitability. And you want innovators developing and perfecting novel approaches to type 2 diabetes prevention at scale. Because all of that leads to better chances of finding out if you’re at risk, and more opportunities to do something about it.
What’s exciting is that all of the above has already started happening here in the US. With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, incentives for care providers and insurers are shifting to place more value on prevention. In August 2014, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommended that all overweight or obese adults who have an additional cardiovascular risk factor, like prediabetes, receive intensive behavioral counseling. The evidence they reviewed from 74 trials was so strong that the ACA now requires commercial health plans to cover this type of counseling for at-risk adults.
And just two weeks ago the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a plan for Medicare to reimburse CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) providers for delivering the DPP to at-risk beneficiaries. This, just as Medicare roles are starting to swell with baby boomers.
The DPP is intensive behavioral counseling specifically for people with prediabetes. It can be delivered in-person or digitally. Omada Health is the biggest, most tech-forward, human-centered, and data-driven digital DPP provider. And we’re constantly looking to data, science, design, and our users for ways to make the outcomes and experience even better.
So what we have here are regulations, incentives, technology and high-level international dialogue converging in a perfect storm of effective, scalable diabetes prevention. So yes, there’s never been a better time to have prediabetes here in the US. Because there have never been so many forces coming together to help people turn that diagnosis around.
Kudos to WHO and HHS for the work they’ve done — and continue to do — to impact the mushrooming diabetes rates, and for their commitment to chronic disease prevention. These are the issues that drive us every day at Omada Health. The groundswell of attention they’re getting excites us and also makes us want to double down on our own mission to inspire and enable people everywhere to live free of chronic disease.