The American Diabetes Association, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-23rd District, Dr. Eric Bieber, president and CEO of Rochester Regional Health, and Rochester community leaders gathered together to call for the prevention of type 2 diabetes, which has reached epidemic levels.
 
“Diabetes is arguably the biggest looming health challenge in New York,” said Travis Heider, Northeast Regional Director of the American Diabetes Association. “More than 2 million people in New York have diabetes (12.3 percent of the population) and 5.4 million people have prediabetes (36.2 percent of the population). The horrific complications include heart disease, stroke, amputation, end-stage kidney disease, blindness and death.”
 
Despite the rising tide of diabetes, there is something that we can do to prevent it: encourage people who are at risk of developing diabetes to enroll in the National Diabetes Prevention Program. The American Diabetes Association announced that it received a $175,000 grant from the New York State Health Foundation to increase the referral channels into the program.
 
“Unlike type 1 diabetes, which has no known prevention, type 2 diabetes is preventable in many cases,” said Dr. K.K. Rajamani, chief of endocrinology at Rochester Regional Health’s Diabetes and Endocrinology Center in Greece. “Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes (90-95 percent of all diagnosed cases). Unfortunately, many people don’t know that they have diabetes until they end up in the emergency room.”
 
“Diabetes threatens to overwhelm New York’s health care system and affect an entire generation. One in five health care dollars is spent caring for people with diabetes,” said Bieber. “We’re trying to move towards a new health care model where primary care physicians emphasize the prevention of diabetes and other chronic diseases.”
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established the National Diabetes Prevention Program, an evidence-based lifestyle change program for preventing type 2 diabetes. The year-long program helps participants make real lifestyle changes such as eating healthier and incorporating physical activity into their daily lives. The DPP has been clinically proven to help people with diabetes to cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Furthermore, people over the age of 60 cut their risk by 71 percent.

Reed is the vice chair of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, the largest caucus in Washington, D.C. He is a cosponsor of the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Act, or H.R. 2102/S.1131, which would provide Medicaid coverage for the National Diabetes Prevention Program to eligible beneficiaries determined to be at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
 
“I care about the people who suffer with this disease. It’s only right that we fight for them by supporting legislation which has the potential to help them by slowing or even cutting the diabetes epidemic in half, as diabetes and prediabetes disproportionately affect older adults,” said Reed. “One out of every three Medicare dollars is spent on diabetes. By allowing Medicare to cover the DPP, we could reduce federal spending by an estimated $1.3 billion over ten years. Most importantly, this is good for patients. It is also good for taxpayers.”
 
The Diabetes Prevention Program has been running at Rochester Regional Health’s Diabetes Center on Ridgeway Avenue since 2011. Nearly 240 people have gone through the program. Sessions are held weekly for six months and then monthly for six months. To be eligible for the DPP, patients must be at least 18 years old, have a body mass index greater than 25 and be diagnosed with prediabetes or be at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
 
Diabetes is not only a burden on individuals and the health care system — it’s a burden on businesses, too. Diabetes costs an estimated $21.6 billion each year in New York.
 
“Let’s say that you have a small business with 100 employees. In that company, 12 employees would have diabetes, 37 employees would have prediabetes and the insurance would cost over $400,000. That’s a huge expense for a small business,” said Peter Knappen, area director of upstate New York for the American Diabetes Association. “If we can educate people about the Diabetes Prevention Program and encourage Congress to expand access to the DPP through Medicare reimbursement, we will make a significant impact on the overall health of our community.”
 
There are many DPP’s offered throughout Rochester and its surrounding areas. For more information about the Diabetes Prevention Program or to find a DPP in New York,visit the ADA website at diabetes.org/nydpp.