Taming the diabetes dragon: Pharmacists as front-line warriors for wellness

Here’s a chilling statistic to ponder: Every 24 hours, more than 4,000 adults in the United States are diagnosed with diabetes, and some 200 die from its effects. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also reports that diabetes afflicts roughly 26 million Americans and could eventually develop in another 79 million U.S. residents considered to have prediabetes.

The fact that diabetes is a serious health threat — and one of the nation’s fastest-growing diseases — isn’t lost on most Americans, according to a new survey from UnitedHealth Group. The insurance giant released the survey results Nov. 1 at the start of National Diabetes Month, against a backdrop of growing alarm about the toll taken by the disease and near-universal awareness of its serious consequences.

Pollsters found that 92% of respondents know there’s a difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and 8-in-10 recognized that Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. As many as 84% said they’re familiar with leading diabetes risk factors, including being overweight or chronic couch potatoes.

UHC’s nationwide poll points up widespread recognition among Americans of “the threat diabetes poses to the nation’s health,” according to Michael Johnsen of Drug Store News. In a report on Friday, Johnsen quoted Tom Beauregard, EVP UnitedHealth Group and head of UHC’s Center for Health Reform and Modernization, who cited “a diabetes time bomb ticking in America, due in large part to the escalating obesity rates in our country.”

Beauregard predicts that 40 million American adults will have diabetes by 2021, “at a cost of $3.5 trillion over the next decade.” That makes it one of the prime culprits behind the nation’s skyrocketing healthcare bill. It also makes it a prime focus of intervention efforts by pharmacists, and of pharmacy-based wellness programs that are popping up around the United States faster than new drug store front-end planograms.

Deneen Vojta, SVP UnitedHealth Group and chief clinical officer of the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance, asserts that “the opportunity now exists to turn awareness into actions like eating healthier, increasing physical activity, being tested for risk factors or joining prevention programs.” That’s a golden opportunity for pharmacists, who can influence patients’ behavior across all those preventive-health activities and make a real difference through the interactions they have every day with their patients.

If you’re a pharmacist, an upper-level pharmacy student, a retail clinician or a pharmacy technician, you’re probably already on the front lines of the battle to curb the diabetes epidemic. We invite you to share your experiences by clicking on the comment link below, and we salute you for the vital job you’re doing.

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