It is an honor to serve as President, Medicine & Science, of the American Diabetes Association this year. Having volunteered for more than 20 years, I know how far we’ve come in the fight to Stop Diabetes®—and how much work is still ahead of us.
I also know this from my 20 years as an internist with a focus on diabetes care. We primary care providers are on the front lines of diabetes education, prevention, diagnosis and management. Most people have access to a primary care provider and (hopefully) see him or her regularly, and so one of my main goals as President is to focus on primary care.
In 2013, the Association will concentrate on educating the primary care community about early detection of prediabetes, which is when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Primary care providers need to know the risk factors (including age, ethnicity, being overweight and a history of gestational diabetes in women) and regularly screen their at-risk patients with blood tests. The good news is that, if caught early enough, type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed through healthy eating, exercise and medication. But first, you must know your risk, and family doctors can be instrumental in encouraging patients to take charge of their health.
Of course, many professionals treat people who already have diabetes. We will continue to encourage adherence to the Association’s Standards of Medical Care, which are updated annually to provide the best possible guidance for diagnosing and treating adults and children with all types of diabetes. As an organization we’ll also continue to be a “go to” resource for physicians and their patients through professional/consumer membership, publications and other means.
One offering that pulls all this together for patients is the free Living With Type 2 Diabetes program, intended to help guide recently diagnosed patients through their first year with diabetes. (Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of all cases in the United States.) So far nearly 250,000 people have benefited from this program’s information, guidance and support, helping them adjust to and live well with type 2.
The American Diabetes Association is not the only national organization working with the primary care community—some focus on them exclusively. Therefore it will benefit us to foster and improve our professional relationships with prominent groups such as the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American College of Physicians (ACP). There’s strength in numbers when we work together on messaging, education and prevention efforts.
I have covered a lot of our work in the hands-on medical realm, but what about the science that leads us to trusted, evidence-based practices? The American Diabetes Association has a transformational new approach to the diabetes crisis, called Pathway to Stop Diabetes. Pathway will create a new generation of diabetes researchers who generate exciting discoveries through excellence, innovation, collaboration and radical thinking.
Our goal is to fund more than 100 Pathway scientists in the next decade, and the first Pathway Award applications will open later this year. I’m really excited to see how this initiative changes the face of diabetes.
It will be a busy year as we confront the diabetes epidemic through education, collaboration and innovation—all on behalf of the millions and millions of people in this country affected by the disease. These are my goals, my hopes, my mission as a practitioner and Association volunteer in 2013.
John E. Anderson, MD
President, Medicine & Science
American Diabetes Association