More than 1 in 10 Kansas adults have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. In addition, 1 in 3 have blood glucose levels higher than normal, placing them at risk for developing diabetes, and most of those people don’t know they’re at risk.
November is National Diabetes Month, an opportunity to explore the impact diabetes has on public health.
Diabetes is a leading cause of death in America and significant public health concern. The American Diabetes Association reports the annual economic cost of diabetes exceeds $245 billion, and people with diabetes spend nearly double in health care expenses.
Diabetes is a complex medical condition, but treatment makes a world of difference in the lives of people living with it. Poorly controlled diabetes causes high blood sugar that eventually damages the blood vessels, nerves and organs. Long term, the condition can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and amputation. People who have managed diabetes can significantly reduce their risk for complications.
However, managing diabetes is not something an individual can usually do alone. It requires a comprehensive approach from the entire community.
A 2017 Kansas Journal of Medicine study detailed the kind of community that best serves people living with diabetes and helps others to prevent the condition:
• Public parks and community centers offer safe, affordable places to exercise.
• Fresh, healthy food is available and affordable through grocery stores serving all areas of the community.
• People have primary care physicians who are regularly screening for diabetes.
• People can afford insulin, other medications and testing supplies to keep blood sugar stable.
This kind of intervention requires strong and healthy social service, health care and public service sectors. When gaps in these systems form, people are more likely to become diabetic and more likely to experience complications, particularly those with fewer financial resources.
In Kansas, adults who make less than $50,000 a year are almost twice as likely to have diabetes as those who make more than $50,000 a year. Diabetes also disproportionately impacts black and Hispanic Kansans.
Diabetes educators serve as one way to bridge systemic gaps in diabetes treatment. There are dozens of accredited diabetes education programs in Kansas, offering support and resources to help people living with diabetes. Diabetes educators are covered by Medicare and most health insurance plans.
Kansans can find the education program nearest them at www.diabeteseducator.org.