At a briefing in Washington DC today, the American Diabetes Association announced a highly ambitious (or crazy?) new National Diabetes Goal: "By 2015, 45% of Americans who are at risk of getting diabetes will know their blood glucose level and know actions to take." If you do the math, that translates to getting about 59 million people screened and educated. By comparison, the data says that currently, only about 17% of Americans at risk -- about 22 million people -- know their blood glucose levels and what to do about diabetes. Wow, they've got a lot of work to do.
At least there's power in numbers, it seems: on board supporting the campaign is a virtual Who's-Who List of nearly every significant diabetes group in the country, including more than 20 diabetes health, non-profit and business advocacy organizations.
The campaign was initiated by the National Changing Diabetes Program (NCDP), a program of Novo Nordisk, which recently commissioned a landmark Gallup study surveying public knowledge and perceptions on diabetes.
What's interesting about this Gallup study is how comprehensive it is. The results gathered now constitute the "Societal Barometer" portion of an ongoing three-part "Triple Barometer" study:
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* The Societal Barometer is based on a national public opinion survey of 2,015 adults conducted by Gallup® for NCDP. Results showed that "almost all Americans (94%) consider diabetes a serious health issue, and half say they feel personally affected by diabetes. Yet awareness is not translating into action to prevent diabetes."
* The second portion, an Economic Barometer, will explore how the cost burden of diabetes is distributed in the US across health care providers, public and private insurers, and individuals. The research will take place in two parts: first, they will conduct analyses of the cost differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, of diagnosed diabetes and undiagnosed diabetes, and pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes; then a second portion will survey health care providers to focus on gaps in diabetes-related reimbursements and identify areas for improved reimbursement policies (!! - inserted)
* Finally, a Clinical Barometer will assess how the quality of diabetes care is measured in the US and identify any existing gaps in these efforts and recommend improvements (insert more exclamation points).
What's interesting about this emerging National Diabetes Goal campaign is this slogan: Awareness of diabetes is not the problem; it's time to motivate action. "People are aware of the diabetes issue, and now they need behavioral change," Senior Director of the NCDP Dana Haza tells me.
Yes indeed. But how the heck do they plan on kicking 59 million butts, if you will? The campaign materials being distributed don't indicate much detail. All I could find was a statement calling on those at-risk for Type 2 diabetes to ask about getting their blood glucose checked at their next doctor's visit, and a quote encouraging American families to "take small, manageable steps — rather than drastic, unsustainable changes — to ensure long-term health."
Small, manageable steps? Know your numbers? We could have told you that. Now what?
According to Haza, the strategy is to enlist organizations and "champions outside the clinical setting" to get things moving among the patient community where they live. By that she means working with the national drug store chains, school nurses, large employers, and community ethnic groups to start prodding people to get tested and make lifestyle changes for the better.
It still sounds a little vague on the details to me. But on the other hand, just the fact that these groups are banding together this way to attack the problem is pretty huge in itself. In the words of the campaign brochure, "What kind of progress against diabetes could we make if we unite to achieve one ambitious goal?" Lots, presumably. And now they've got exactly seven years to figure it out.
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Other stuff the NCDP has accomplished:
* Remember that big study that came out in January showing that diabetes cost the nation $174 billion a year? The NCDP was behind that, the goal being to illustrate that just 2% of that whopping sum is spent on prevention, which urgently needs to change, Haza says.
* The NCDP is behind pending legislation pushing for the establishment of a National Diabetes Coordinator. That would be an executive-level government position -- a Surgeon General of sorts, whose job would be to focus solely on diabetes issues.