NEWS FLASH: Top Orgs Band Together for New “National Diabetes Goal”

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.

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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:

* 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.

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11 Responses

  1. CALpumper
    CALpumper May 7, 2008 at 7:04 am | | Reply

    Great info Amy. Thanks for the update!

  2. tmana
    tmana May 7, 2008 at 7:44 am | | Reply

    If prevention is key (at least for T2), it would in some ways be better to partner with school cafeterias and physical education/health programs, corporate cafeterias and HR departments, supermarkets, and restaurants, promoting healthy foods and correct portion sizes, daily mandatory physical education in schools, company gyms, intracorporate sports leagues (for large companies), and community sports leagues (for smaller companies)…

    In the end, though, I’d rather have the government OUT of medicine…

  3. Scott
    Scott May 7, 2008 at 10:44 am | | Reply

    I suspect this is part of the Novo Nordisk-sponsored “Dancin’ to Change Diabetes” national video contest with former 98 degrees boy-band celeb Drew Lachey http://www.dancingtochangediabetes.com also announced yesterday — and to considerably more media attention, I would add.

    The issue I have with these programs is that too often, they are launched with much fanfare, only to accomplish very little. The reason is exactly those you noted: vague objectives, lack of implementation plans, and lack of reliable measures used to measure outcomes. Perhaps the reason for this is because its difficult to get 20 diabetes health, non-profit and business advocacy organizations to coordinate on any effort, with conflicting priorities, egos in terms of who’s running the show, etc.

    The area I found most intriguing was the fact that the Economic Barometer may finally attempt to quantify the economic costs, and surprise, even include details such as the cost differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, an issue that even the CDC doesn’t think merits sufficient attention to try and quantify how many people have each type of diabetes.

    Its a bit tough to get excited about this program, over the past 32 years, I’ve seen so many programs come and go, but it will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

  4. AmyT
    AmyT May 7, 2008 at 12:19 pm | | Reply

    Hey Scott,
    I don’t think this is directly related to http://www.dancingtochangediabetes.com — but certainly a big part of Novo’s push to make waves in diabetes. And you’re certainly right that it *could* be more hype than anything else, TBD. But it would be awfully embarrassing for all these leading orgs if there were really no “meat” behind this National Goal.

  5. Sarah
    Sarah May 7, 2008 at 1:13 pm | | Reply

    What good is this? Big Pharma is looking for another way to attract more customers (i.e. those with a slightly higher than normal fasting BG level?).

    People already KNOW how to prevent Type 2 diabetes. They don’t care to exercise that knowledge though, as clearly outlined in this post.

    Also, what is the point of including autoimmune insulin deficiency (Type 1 diabetes), if there is absolutely no known way to prevent it? Or at least not through weight loss, diet, and exericse?

    The problem is, just as those mistakenly think that us poor Type 1′s brought this upon themselves, a lot of Type 2 diabetics with lifestyle induced Type 2 diabetes DON’T take any responsibility for their actions and think that “bad luck” somehow brought it on.

    These programs/surveys in and of themselves are useless. But they may get Big Pharma (in bed with the ADA) a few more customers…

  6. mollyjade
    mollyjade May 7, 2008 at 2:18 pm | | Reply

    Tmana, I have a friend who’s doing exactly that. She’s an MD/MPh student, and she and her fellow students have “adopted” a small town. They labeled healthy food at the town’s grocery store. They met with the mayor, the school principal, teachers, and other town leaders to discuss healthy habits. And they’re doing their rotations with the town doctor. They’re transforming the town, and there’s been a great response.

  7. Lauren
    Lauren May 7, 2008 at 3:25 pm | | Reply

    If I had a nickel for everyone who has told me I can “beat diabetes” through exercise and diet, or who has advised me to cure it through gastric bypass (I am a normal-weight person), I would be able to pay back my med school loans in a lump sum. There’s no “prevention” for T1, at least no preventative strategy that isn’t experimental and immune-modulating. The next time I hear the phrase “prevent diabetes” I I may blow a gasket.

    Having said that, I appreciate efforts to get people to understand their numbers AND make lifestyle changes. Heart surgeries and amputations are drastic measures. Exercising daily and making more healthful food choices are not drastic changes compared to the alternative. I’m constantly grateful that my disease allows me, in fact encourages me, to run, walk, jog, bike, and get my heart pumping every day.

  8. whimsy2
    whimsy2 May 7, 2008 at 8:38 pm | | Reply

    A good first step would be to make strips affordable so at least the people who WANT to test frequently can afford to do so.

  9. Allison Blass
    Allison Blass May 8, 2008 at 7:15 am | | Reply

    Has it occured to anyone that maybe they have different goals and action plans for both type 1 and type 2? Just because they want to educate about prevention doesn’t mean they are going to talk about prevention for both type 1 and type 2. Obviously, the AADE and the other orgs know you can’t do that, so I would assume they have different steps they are going to take for educating on the two diseases.

    I agree with Scott that some of the economic data might very beneficial in arguing for more funding, but I don’t think that just because an organization focuses on both type 1 and type 2 means they are going to do the exact same thing for both them. Does it say anywhere they are going to help educate people on how to prevent type 1 diabetes? No, it doesn’t. And if does and I’m missing it, please show me.

  10. Lauren
    Lauren May 8, 2008 at 12:08 pm | | Reply

    I don’t hear the phrase “prevent type 1 diabetes” but I DO hear the blanket statement “prevent diabetes” all the time. The problem is that the diseases are rolled into one category, and most laypeople don’t understand the distinction. For that matter, a lot of people in the medical field don’t understand the difference. The things I’ve heard nurses, dieticians, and even doctors say are unbelievable (including an ER doc telling me her mom got type 2 at age 26, so I must be type 2 due to my late dx). And after the 60 Mins story on gastric bypass & type 2 aired, I was deluged with comments about there being a “cure” for diabetes. Anyway let’s hope these efforts are targeted to the specific needs of T1s and T2s.

  11. Sarah
    Sarah May 9, 2008 at 12:13 am | | Reply

    Allison…we’re saying that this seemingly will have NO benefit for Type 1 diabetes whatsoever. I don’t see the word “cure” coming from anywhere in the press release. Fact is, you can eat right, bike all day long, and be skinny as a rail, but if you cannot control your BG into normal ranges (like most Type 1′s) with today’s lacking technology to do so, you are still screwed. What’s the point of trying to find out “cost data” for Type 1 if you offer no real solutions for the people who have it?! This campaign is big on fanfare, lacking on substance.

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