Diabetes is serious. And expensive. And while there’s no denying these facts, the question remains: what are we, as a nation, doing to combat the significant impact of diabetes on our citizens and on our economy?

In March 2018, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) released its new “Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2017” report. The data indicates that one of every four health care dollars is incurred by someone with diabetes, and one of every seven health care dollars is spent directly treating diabetes and its complications. That equates to $327 billion spent on diabetes in 2017. While that dollar amount is staggering, we can change this trajectory. 

Research is critical

Investing in research leads to improved patient outcomes and brings us closer to a cure. Research grants, including the innovations resulting from the ADA’s Pathway to Stop Diabetes grants, have led to notable scientific contributions in addition to building a critical mass of the next generation of diabetes scientists. These include efforts to develop a disposable continuous glucose monitoring patch, identification of links between sense of smell and body weight to diabetes and advancements to optimize a novel drug delivery approach to help wounds heal and reduce amputations. 

We all must raise our voices and do our part as advocates in support of the more than 30 million individuals with diabetes and the more than 84 million who have prediabetes.

And yet federal funding for diabetes research and programs is limited and not proportional to the substantial economic burden of diabetes on our nation and for the number of individuals with the disease. The National Institutes of Health spends only $34 per person on diabetes research funding. Comparatively, the NIH invests $2,500 per person for HIV/AIDS research while cancer research receives $371 per person.

Prevention programs access 

We must also protect access to affordable and adequate diabetes care, medications and prevention. The recent launch of the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP) is a prime example of meaningful outcomes that can result from federal investment in prevention research and the translation of those findings. America’s seniors are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, one in four Americans age 65 or older has diabetes or prediabetes. The MDPP provides more seniors across the country with access to the highly successful, evidence-based Diabetes Prevention Program, which has been proven to decrease the risk for developing type 2 diabetes by 71 percent among seniors. While the progress will be gradual, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have taken a momentous step in preventing diabetes, improving seniors’ health, and tackling growing federal health care costs. 

We all must raise our voices and do our part as advocates in support of the more than 30 million individuals with diabetes and the more than 84 million who have prediabetes. We need to tell our elected leaders that diabetes must be made a national priority. The ADA is committed to improving the health outcomes of all people with diabetes and reducing the national impact of this serious and expensive chronic illness.