If you’re reading this blog, chances are you are one of the nearly 26 million Americans with diabetes, or you care about someone who lives with it. You know the worries, the struggles, the complications, the daily ins and outs of this serious disease. You know how it truly changes lives.
As President of Health Care and Education for the American Diabetes Association, part of my responsibility is to make sure that what we do as an organization stays true to the mission of improving the lives of all people affected by diabetes. And as a nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator, I care for with people with diabetes nearly every day.
The truth is, diabetes is an epidemic and it’s going to take all of us to solve it. Ninety to 95 percent of cases in the United States are type 2 diabetes, which can be prevented or delayed. We can’t wait until people get diabetes to do something about it. We need to be proactive and not just reactive.
Let’s start with medical world: Your health care team can involve many players, including your general practitioner, endocrinologist, nutritionist and dentist. These experts are critical to creating the best treatment plan for each person with diabetes. And primary care providers especially are on the front lines of diabetes prevention, educating and monitoring their patients to avoid type 2 and diabetic complications.
Let’s think much more broadly about legislation. Preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes is a goal of the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Act, which would provide coverage for the National Diabetes Prevention Program to eligible seniors who are at high risk for type 2. This legislation has the potential to slow the diabetes epidemic, which costs our nation $245 billion annually. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) also seeks to emphasize prevention by reducing or eliminating costs for preventative and wellness services, and ensures no person living with diabetes will ever be denied or charged more for health insurance. Both of these pieces of legislation are big steps in the right direction.
But the solution to stopping diabetes is even bigger than that. We need a truly multidisciplinary team, one that gets many different people thinking about and promoting good health. So whether you’re an architect or an event planner, a farmer or an office manager, ask yourself: What can I do to Stop Diabetes® for myself and others? How can I tell (and show!) my family and my community that an active, healthy lifestyle can help us all stay well and lower our risk for diabetes?
Feeling empowered? Want to take action? Become a Diabetes Advocate! The Association makes it so easy for you to become involved—just sign up and we’ll let you know when something is happening at the federal or state level. When we send out an Action Alert, you’ll receive clear instructions for calling or emailing your legislators. And if you want to embellish with your own personal story, you’re welcome to. Either way, your voice will be heard.
We can’t sit on the sidelines. That’s not how change happens. All Association members need to express the urgency of diabetes to the policymakers who create the laws and fund the research and prevention programs this country so desperately needs. Advocating for ourselves and the people we care about is how we’re going to get on their radar—and Stop Diabetes once and for all.
Marjorie Cypress, PhD, RN, CNP, CDE
President, Health Care & Education, 2014
American Diabetes Association