Deterring a Deadly Disease
Diabetes is near epidemic, but we’re getting smarter about it. Here’s how.
by Jennifer Marie Zeberkiewicz Published September 18, 2008 at 05:48 AM
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When it comes to diabetes, Delaware has declared war.
As the condition spreads, the state, local hospitals and other health organizations have launched many initiatives to combat its prevalence. And they’re starting to work.
“There have been great accomplishments over the past several years toward improving the quality of care for people living with diabetes in Delaware,” says Donald Post, director of the state’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Program. “However, there is much more work to be done, especially as we move in the area of primary prevention of type 2 diabetes. One must keep in mind that diabetes is a complex disease, a disease that requires daily monitoring and management.”
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. The cause is not understood, though genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise seem to play major roles.
Diabetes can be deadly. Most diabetics have health problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, which increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. More than 65 percent of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.
Delaware ranks 18th for prevalence of adult diabetes in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 56,600 Delawareans age 18 and older have diabetes. It has become the fourth leading cause of death for African-American women and sixth for African-American men. About 9.5 percent of Latino Americans aged 20 years or older have been diagnosed with the disease. About $490 million is spent each year in Delaware for diabetes and its complications.
As a result the Delaware Division of Public Health’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Program developed the statewide Plan to Prevent and Control Diabetes in Delaware in 2002. The plan outlined steps for improving the economic, physical and mental burden of the disease till 2010.
The program also teamed up with the Delaware Diabetes Coalition, which helps set standards of care for diabetics and helps develop public policies and plans for prevention and control.
According to Post, progress has been steady over the past five years.
“To provide consistency in the way Delaware provides patient care, our program, working with the Medical Society of Delaware, designed and distributed in-patient and out-patient diabetes guidelines and this year will be distributing pre-diabetes guidelines,” Post says. “Utilization of the guidelines and following the recommendations for exams and tests, greatly contributes toward good diabetes control.”
Since 2002, the Delaware Pharmacists Society has screened more than 10,000 people for the disease. The society doesn’t diagnose, but it does refer patients to physicians when necessary. And donors to the Blood Bank of Delmarva can be screened for free, if they so choose. Post estimates that 50,000 people will be screened in 2008.
By mid-summer, 400 people were identified as diabetic. “Hopefully this will be a trendsetter for other blood banks across the nation to execute mass screenings in their state,” Post says.
With the Delaware Department of Education, the Division of Public Health distributed more than 300 blood glucose monitors to all Delaware schools. “These meters will help keep the child healthy in the school setting,” Post says.
Hospitals are waging their own war against the disease.
Deterring a Deadly Disease continues on page 2