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The Power of Prevention

A few years ago, I watched as a childhood friend was diagnosed with diabetes and then multiple other related co-morbidities in rapid succession. It has affected every aspect of her life and was caught much later than it should have been, exasperated by years of lacking access to health insurance and preventative care. As her friend, I knew on some level for that she was at risk of developing a chronic condition and did my best to support her, but was unsure how to help her change her circumstances. I’ve worked in a health related field for most of my career, but this experience has further driven me to want to advance prevention and understand what people truly need to stay healthy.

An alarming 1 out of 3 adults has pre-diabetes. And of those, 15-30 percent will develop Type 2 diabetes within five years. Not only is diabetes emotionally, physically and financially costly for individuals and their families, it accounts for 23 percent of total health care costs annually in the United States and is highly associated with heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide.

There is so much we need to do as a community to turn the tide of diabetes and other high burden chronic conditions. At times, it can feel daunting. However, since learning of my friend’s diagnosis there has been a shift in our approach to pre-diabetes nationally and a push to increase access to and engagement in the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP). Supporting this actionable evidence based program is something we can do now to begin to reduce the burden of diabetes on our loved ones and within our communities. Researchers found that participants who lost a modest amount of weight through dietary changes and increased physical activity reduced their chance of developing diabetes by 58 percent (this gain was greater for adults 60 and older who had a reduction of 71 percent). You can learn more about the evidence base behind the program here. The program was found to be so effective among older adults that Medicare announced that it will begin covering it beginning April 1, 2018. Additionally, partners in Oregon and Utah are working to better understand how to incorporate NDPP into services for Medicaid recipients, and a growing number of commercial health plans have begun offering NDPP as a benefit for their members.

To learn more about NDPPs in your state or how to offer the program, contact your state health department or local HealthInsight office in Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon or Utah to get connected.

Diabetes and its prevention perfectly embodies the parable credited to medical sociologist, Irving Zola, about the man who is so busy rescuing people who have fallen into the river that he has no time to walk upstream to understand why and where they are falling in. Finding the resources and the time to catch people before they fall in can make all the difference.

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