New study shows diabetes leveling off


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According to a new national study, the alarming rise of type-2 diabetes, the disease often associated with obesity, is finally leveling off, a positive sign for preventive programs around the state.

However, the good news is not universal. The study also highlighted numerous inconsistencies in results of ethnic groups as well as education levels.

“It is also important to note that there remain ethnic/racial disparities in the results reported with the rates of decline being less striking among African and Latino Americans,” said E. Dale Abel, the director of the Diabetes Research Center at University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last week, suggested a plateau in the prevalence and a decrease in the incidence of diabetes.

According to the study, prevalence is the measure of the overall population diagnosed with the disease, while incidence is the number of new cases in the previous year.

From 1998 to 2008, the change in prevalence was 5.1 percent nationally. This rate has since slowed to 1.6 percent from 2008 to 2012.

Comparatively, the number of new cases decreased by 4.9 percent, a vast difference from the 5.1 percent growth reported from 1998 to 2008.

Despite the encouraging results, Abel notes several imbalances found in the data collected from various demographics. 

Individuals with a high-school education or less also recorded a greater increase in prevalence when compared with those with more education.

This variance has been mirrored in the Iowa population, said Laurene Hendricks, a coordinator for the diabetes prevention and control program at the Iowa Public Health Department.

Among non-Latino blacks in Iowa, the prevalence rate increased from 8.2 to 15, while the Latino rate jumped from 6.2 to 7.7.

Apart from this incongruity, health officials regard the results as a promising indicator of progress, said Doug Beardsley, the director of the Johnson County Public Health Department.

“[The decreased rate of growth] could be attributed to all of the efforts to stem obesity,” he said.

Numerous programs are also seeing success on the state level. The newly implemented National Diabetes Prevention Program works with patients that are high-risk for diabetes but have not yet been diagnosed.

“[It] tries to focus on weight loss through healthy dieting and regular exercise as a preventive means,” Hendricks said.

Beardsley cites early detection as a critical means of preventing type-2 diabetes.

“[It’s] almost 100 percent preventable if we can get the lifestyle changes down,” he said.

“If we can raise awareness of people walking around with pre diabetes, then we can really begin to fight this disease,” Hendricks said.

This newer program is supplementary to the existing Outpatient Diabetes Self Management Education Program, which helps diabetic individuals with the day to day struggles of the disease.

“There are lots of complications of diabetes, like amputations and blindness, that we hope to minimize,” Hendricks said.

There are also efforts to combat diabetes and other related diseases by making healthy lifestyles easier to manage, Beardsley said.

“We’re trying to make cities more bike-able and walkable in hopes that it will promote more physical activity,” Beardsley said.

This initiative has met several challenges in regard to politics and policy, with a significant lack of resources at the state and federal levels limiting programs, he said.

“We need political will power to get a long, sustained, comprehensive approach to diabetes and public health,” he added.

While the study shows progress, Abel says the percent of individuals with diabetes is still very high.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s good to see we are moving in the right direction,” Hendricks said.

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