Reduce the disease burden of diabetes mellitus (DM) and improve the quality of life for all persons who have, or are at risk for, DM.
DM occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin or cannot respond appropriately to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to absorb and use glucose (sugar) as fuel for the body’s cells. Without a properly functioning insulin signaling system, blood glucose levels become elevated and other metabolic abnormalities occur, leading to the development of serious, disabling complications.
Many forms of diabetes exist. The 3 common types of DM are:
- Type 2 diabetes, which results from a combination of resistance to the action of insulin and insufficient insulin production
- Type 1 diabetes, which results when the body loses its ability to produce insulin
- Gestational diabetes, a common complication of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can lead to perinatal complications in mother and child and substantially increases the likelihood of cesarean section. Gestational diabetes is also a risk factor for the mother and, later in life, the child's subsequent development of type 2 diabetes after the affected pregnancy.
Effective therapy can prevent or delay diabetic complications.1,2 However, about 28 percent of Americans with DM are undiagnosed, and another 86 million American adults have blood glucose levels that greatly increase their risk of developing type 2 DM in the next several years.3 Diabetes complications tend to be more common and more severe among people whose diabetes is poorly controlled, which makes DM an immense and complex public health challenge. Preventive care practices are essential to better health outcomes for people with diabetes.4
Why Is Diabetes Important?
DM affects an estimated 29.1 million people in the United States and is the 7th leading cause of death.3 Diagnosed DM:
- Increases the all-cause mortality rate 1.8 times compared to persons without diagnosed diabetes
- Increases the risk of heart attack by 1.8 times
- Is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower limb amputations, and adult-onset blindness3,4,5
In addition to these human costs, the estimated total financial cost of DM in the United States in 2012 was $245 billion, which includes the costs of medical care, disability, and premature death.3
The number of DM cases continues to increase both in the United States and throughout the world.6 Due to the steady rise in the number of persons with DM, and possibly earlier onset of type 2 DM, there is growing concern about:
- The possibility of substantial increases in prevalence of diabetes-related complications in part due to the rise in rates of obesity
- The possibility that the increase in the number of persons with DM and the complexity of their care might overwhelm existing health care systems
- The need to take advantage of recent discoveries on the individual and societal benefits of improved diabetes management and prevention by bringing life-saving discoveries into wider practice
- The clear need to complement improved diabetes management strategies with efforts in primary prevention among those at risk for developing type 2 DM
Four “transition points” in the natural history of diabetes health care provide opportunities to reduce the health and economic burden of DM:
Disparities in diabetes risk:
- People from minority populations are more likely to be affected by type 2 diabetes. Minority groups constitute 25 percent of all adult patients with diabetes in the United States and represent the majority of children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes.
- African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for the development of type 2 diabetes.
- Diabetes prevalence rates among American Indians are 2 to 5 times those of whites. On average, African American adults are 1.7 times as likely and Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans are twice as likely to have the disease as non-Hispanic whites of similar age.
Barriers to progress in diabetes care include:
- Systems problems (challenges due to the design of health care systems)
- The troubling increase in the number of people with diabetes, which may result in a decrease in the attention and resources available per person to treat DM
Emerging Issues in Diabetes
Evidence is emerging that diabetes is associated with additional comorbidities including:
- Cognitive impairment
- Fracture risk
- Cancer risk and prognosis
The importance of both diabetes and these comorbidities will continue to increase as the population ages. Therapies that have proven to reduce microvascular and macrovascular complications will need to be assessed in light of the newly identified comorbidities.
Lifestyle change has been proven effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes in high-risk individuals. Based on this, new public health approaches are emerging that may deserve monitoring at the national level. For example, the Diabetes Prevention Program research trial demonstrated that lifestyle intervention had its greatest impact in older adults and was effective in all racial and ethnic groups. Translational studies of this work have also shown that delivery of the lifestyle intervention in group settings at the community level are also effective at reducing type 2 diabetes risk. The National Diabetes Prevention Program has now been established to implement the lifestyle intervention nationwide.
Another emerging issue is the effect on public health of new laboratory based criteria, such as introducing the use of A1c for diagnosis of type 2 diabetes or for recognizing high risk for type 2 diabetes. These changes may impact the number of individuals with undiagnosed diabetes and facilitate the introduction of type 2 diabetes prevention at a public health level.
Several studies have suggested that process indicators such as foot exams, eye exams, and measurement of A1c may not be sensitive enough to capture all aspects of quality of care that ultimately result in reduced morbidity. New diabetes quality-of-care indicators are currently under development and may help determine whether appropriate, timely, evidence-based care is linked to risk factor reduction. In addition, the scientific evidence that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed has stimulated new research into the best markers and approaches for identifying and referring high-risk individuals to prevention programs in community settings.
Finally, it may be possible to achieve additional reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes or its complications by influencing various behavioral risk factors, such as specific dietary choices, which have not been tested in large randomized controlled trials.
1Nathan DM. Diabetes: Advances in diagnosis and treatment. JAMA. 2015;314(10):1052-62.
2Knowler WC, Fowler SE, Hamman RF, et al; Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Ten-year followup of diabetes incidence and weight loss in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study. Lancet. 2009 Nov 14;374(9702):1677-86.
3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report: Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States, 2014. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2014. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/2014-report-estimates-of-diabetes-and-its-burden-in-the-united-states.pdf
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes Report Card 2014. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2015.
5Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration, Seshasai SR, Kaptoge S, Thompson A, Di Angelantonio E, Gao P, et al. Diabetes mellitus, fasting glucose, and risk of cause-specific death. N Engl J Med. 2011;364(9):829-41.
6Menke A, Casagrande S, Geiss L, Cowie CC. Prevalence of and trends in diabetes among adults in the United States, 1988-2012. JAMA. 2015;314(10):1021-9.
7Danaei G, Finucane MM, Lu Y, Singh GM, Cowan MJ, Paciorek CJ, et al. National, regional, and global trends in fasting plasma glucose and diabetes prevalence since 1980: systematic analysis of health examination surveys and epidemiological studies with 370 country-years and 2.7 million participants. Lancet. 2011;378(9785):31-40.