Today, one in seven American adults has type 2 diabetes, an increase from the 1970s, when only one in 20 had it. Many teenagers develop what was once considered a disease of the elderly. 40 percent of young adults at some point in their lives it will be diagnosed.
Scientists studying type 2 diabetes have come to a convincing conclusion. there is no device or drug powerful enough counteract the effects of poverty, pollution, stress, poor food systems, inaccessible cities and unequal access to health, especially in minority communities.
“Our entire society is perfectly designed to create type 2 diabetes,” says Dean Schillinger, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “We have to break it down.”
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Diabetes, a social, economic and environmental problem
Schillinger and about two dozen other experts laid out a road map to that goal in a comprehensive national diabetes report presented to Congress earlier this year, the first of its kind since 1975.
The report calls for reframing the epidemic as a social, economic and environmental problem and offers detailed solutions ranging from improving access; healthy food and drinking water review designs for communities, homes and transport networks.
“It all revolves around massive federal subsidies that support the production of the components that are used highly processed foodsloaded with sugar, low cost and high energy density, and unlimited product marketing fast food Child-oriented, suburban sprawl that requires driving instead of walking or biking; all those environmental forces that some of us have the resources to protect against, but low-income people don’t,” Schillinger said.
“We feel powerless as doctors because we don’t have the tools to address people’s social conditions,” he added.
A report published in January called for the creation of a office of national policy implement a long-term strategy for diabetes prevention and control. The document also calls for greater involvement of federal agencies, including those that regulate housing and urban growth, which, while not seemingly health-related, can play an important role in reducing the spread of disease.
The proposals are meant to solve the so-called Social determinants of health said Felicia Hill-Briggs, vice president of prevention at Northwell Health.
Diabetes and the barrage of risks
“When we stop thinking of health as only a biological disease to be treated, we can see that the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live and age play a crucial role in how who gets sick and who will get sick. Consequences,” Hill-Briggs said.
“Being born into poverty should not determine whether you have access to food, green spaces or a functioning education system.”
Every patient with type 2 diabetes faces a flurry of risksincluding painful nerve damage, vision loss, kidney and heart disease, and foot and toe amputations. (Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes, carries the same risks but is considered an autoimmune condition.)
As of 2019, more than 14 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native adults had diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For black and Hispanic adults, the rate was about 12 percent, compared to 7.4 percent for white adults.
Maria Garcia, 58, a restaurant worker in San Francisco, developed type 2 diabetes after a pregnancy nearly 30 years ago. Over the years it has developed many complications including: digestive problems, vision loss and nerve damage so severe that they caused problems with walking. At night, she feels like her legs are “on fire,” she said.
Garcia has stopped drinking sugary sodas, but said she can’t afford to shop regularly. Healthy food such as lean meat, fish and vegetables. The situation was very different in the small town in Mexico where he was born, he recalls.
“Fresh food was really cheap, but sweets and treats were expensive,” she said. “We walked everywhere, even just to go to the supermarket.”
There are many recommendations currently being offered by diabetes researchers both politically unpalatable and expensive. But they can save money in the long run. one in four health care dollars goes to diabetes treatment, costing the nation $237 billion a year (much of it paid for by public health programs), as well as $90 billion in lost productivity.
Recommendations against diabetes
- subsidies for farmers to grow healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts to make them more affordable.
- Paid maternity leave, so that working mothers can breastfeed their children. This practice is associated with a lower risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes for both mother and child.
- Clear government guidelines on the strong link between sugary drinks and type 2 diabetes. About 1 in 10 food program dollars is spent on sugary drinks, and researchers recommend that government programs stop paying for them.
- Improved nutrition labels which list the amount of sugar in drinks in teaspoons instead of grams because that’s a measure that consumers can more easily understand. A 16-ounce Starbucks Frappuccino contains 11 teaspoons of sugar; A 16 oz bottle of Snapple Raspberry Iced Tea contains 9 tsp.
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The report also recommends: high taxes 10 to 20 percent on the price of sweet drinks. The beverage industry has aggressively fought similar initiatives in the past.
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