Stop Diabetes: a New Call to Action
If Americans continue to get diabetes at current rates, 1 in 3 babies born in the year 2000 will eventually develop the disease. Among racial and ethnic minorities, that number is 1 in 2. These sobering predictions are at the heart of Stop Diabetes, the American Diabetes Association's new call to action, which launches this month.
It is an effort to bring diabetes and its huge toll on the nation's health into sharper focus for Americans and to rally people to become activists for the cause. "Volunteering at a local event, raising funds for research, taking steps to manage your own diabetes better—these are all ways to help stop diabetes," says Lois Witkop, senior vice president of marketing communications for the American Diabetes Association.
One key element of Stop Diabetes is sharing information about the disease. Despite the skyrocketing incidence of diabetes—23.6 million people have it and another 57 million are at risk—research conducted across the country last year by ADA showed that many people are still unaware of how serious diabetes is. Most of them did not consider diabetes to be life threatening, unlike cancer, heart disease, and AIDS. And they were surprised to learn that up to 80 percent of people with diabetes develop cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death for those who have diabetes.
"It was a wake-up call for me when one member of the public said that though diabetes is life-altering, they don't think of it as life-threatening," says Witkop. "There's a disconnect between how the general public perceives this disease and the reality of its toll on people with diabetes and on our society. We need to close that gap—in order to prevent future cases of diabetes, and to ensure that the public makes this health issue a priority."
Indeed, many people are unaware that diabetes kills more people in the United States than AIDS and breast cancer combined. And that adults with diabetes are two to four times as likely to die of heart disease as those who don't have diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and the No. 1 cause of new blindness in adults ages 20 to 74, and it is responsible for more than 60 percent of all nontraumatic lower-limb amputations. "We need people to understand the seriousness of this disease so they take the proper action to reduce their risk," Witkop says. "We don't want the 1-in-3 statistic to come true."
Even Americans who aren't at risk for diabetes are affected by its financial toll. Diabetes cost a whopping $174 billion in 2007, according to ADA. "People with diabetes spend twice as much on health care as people who don't have the disease," says George Huntley, chair of the board of ADA. "It's an unbelievable burden on our health care system, and every single American—whether they have diabetes or not—is impacted by that cost." An added strain is lack of insurance coverage. Nearly 46 million Americans were without insurance in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Look for Stop Diabetes messages to appear in print, television, and radio public service announcements in early November, which is American Diabetes Month. You can follow the buzz online at stopdiabetes.com and diabetes.org/adm, as well as on social media networks including Facebook and Twitter. Stop Diabetes will also be incorporated into all ADA events, including Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes, Tour de Cure, and Diabetes EXPO. In the first year, ADA's goal is for 1 million people to join the Stop Diabetes movement and, in the first three years, 3 million people.
Larry Hausner, chief executive officer of ADA, says that the physical, emotional, and financial toll of the disease can't be sustained. "We hope diabetes will start to resonate in the minds of Americans as an issue that people have to stand up and take action to fight," says Hausner. "And the more people involved in that fight, the better chance we have to stop diabetes."
You Can Stop Diabetes!
There are many ways to join the movement:
Share your story at stopdiabetes.com, where you can take the pledge to Stop Diabetes and spread the word to friends and family. For every person who logs on to share a story, Nutrisystem will donate $5 to ADA, up to $100,000, through December 31.
Act to promote healthier living and bring attention to diabetes. One way: Help set a world record for burning calories, in the Gold's Gym Burn-A-Thon Challenge, scheduled across the country for November 7; proceeds go to ADA. For more info, visit diabetes.org/tour-burnathon.
Learn more about diabetes at various ADA events and activities, including I Decide to Stop Diabetes Day, an educational program to be held nationwide on November 8.
Give of your time and resources by participating in an ADA fund-raising event in your area. To learn more, call your local ADA office or visit diabetes.org/adm.