An Ounce of Prevention

An Ounce of Prevention

The death rate from diabetes for African Americans grew more than 46% from 1980 to 2004, while the rates of stroke, heart disease, and cancer declined roughly 45%, 38% and 11%, respectively, according to Health, United States 2006, a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Diabetes—the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and a disease affecting 3.2 million, or about 13% of, African American adults—comes at a high price to the federal government. A staggering $80 billion was spent treating the disease and its complications in 2005, according to A Study of Federal Spending on Diabetes, released in June by Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

On the other hand, prevention and health promotion programs that address factors associated with diabetes, such as inactivity, obesity, diet, and nutrition, received $4 billion—a mere 5% of what was spent on treatment.

Dana Haza, senior program director of the National Changing Diabetes Program at Novo Nordisk, the company that funded the study, says, “Unlike cancer, there’s no urgency around the disease. Diabetes is slow moving, so we tend to respond to it a lot more slowly.” She adds that healthy lifestyle changes “can be more effective in reducing the incidence and progression of diabetes than drugs alone.

“In some populations you hear, ‘My aunt has it, my mom has it, my cousin has it, so I’m probably going to have it,'” Haza says. But in spite of family history, diabetes doesn’t have to be part of one’s future. “There are proactive things you can do to change the trend in the population. It’s being responsible for your own health.”