Almost 10% of Americans think there is a cure for diabetes, 20% weren’t sure. This is a glimpse at the awareness Americans have for a disease someone is diagnosed with every 20 seconds from a survey conducted by Harries Interactive. For a life-long illness that is increasing in the population (20% thought the death rate was declining) there are vey few that are aware of the basics of the disease. Most likely only those affected or who have friends and family members affected have knowledge of the disease, an indictment of the job the health community is doing to raise awareness of diabetes.

This result really was surprising to me as I feel like everytime I turn around there is a commercial or internet site about living with diabetes. I guess that is a result of me exposing myself to health related issues for hours a day, something most people in the population either don’t do or don’t have access to. I would like to see a comparison of the awareness between diabetes and other diseases that affect the general population (breast cancer for example). I’ll have to put the time in to look at different survey results but my gut feeling is the breast cancer charities and awareness programs are deeper penetrating and have a farther reach.

Considering diabetes kills more than 180,000 a year in the US, compared to 40,000 due to breast cancer it should be applauded how much the breast cancer awareness push has succeeded. I mean there is a whole month for breast cancer awareness and they even have pro sports teams sporting pink on their uniforms to boost awareness. With over 16,000,000 (and climbing) in US diagnosed with diabetes it seems there should be more general awareness of the disease. Color me surprised but not blown away, for all the health community does to promote awareness it seems that a large percentage of the population either doesn’t pay attention or simply forgets the information they hear.

10 years ago the International Diabetes Federation Diabetes Atlas indicated that just over 150 million people had diabetes worldwide.  Now, less than 10 years later the survey shows 285 million worldwide cases, more than half of those aged between 20 and 60.

To put this rise in perspective in 1985 it was estimated there were 30 million worldwide cases.  India and China lead the way in cases but are followed closely by the US.  About 9% of the US population is found to have been diagnosed with diabetes (26.8 million) at a rate of $198 billion a year.  This is 52.7% of worldwide spending on diabetes, an incredible number!

At this growth rate the number should reach above 435 million by 2030 (US population today is 303 million).  As I’ve said before, if we really want to cut down on health expenditures this is a major area of public health we have to target and not just by paying it lip service.  Since a majority of cases are type II (insulin resistance with obesity and diet as contributors) we need to target the food and food services industries and the way the consumer is informed of their decision.

Of course a huge problem is getting people to realize the long term health affects of diet and exercise which is very difficult.  Incremental weight loss and an abstract number like fasting glucose levels are difficult means to motivate people into life altering habits. This has been proven with the massive diet industry which peddles unnecessary measures to lose weight.  This is easily seen by the yo-yo effect from people losing weight off of a diet and then gaining the weight back, only to have to find another diet.  I’ve seen family members go from diet program to diet program to find one which will “keep the weight off” but the only way to keep the weight off is to change your eating and exercise habits,  dirty secret the industry wishes to keep from you.

I guess I got way off topic but the obesity and diabetes problems are closely related, so there’s my diatribe for the day…