Looking at Diabetes in Pennsylvania

It’s no secret that as our population ages, so does the risk for diabetes. With the disease as the seventh leading cause of death nationwide and in Pennsylvania, it kills about nine people in Pennsylvania every day, or 3,184 in 2010. Sadly, the death rate doubles for those who have it.
That’s the bad news. But the good news is that there is so much potential for more to be done to confront this public health threat.
With the rate of diabetes growing rapidly in our Commonwealth, I sought last year to find out whether our state is able to appropriately address the growing incidence of the disease and what the state is doing to prevent new cases. Diabetes, as one of a number of public health threats, can lead to other significant health problems, especially for those who have not yet been diagnosed and taken proper treatment.
Diabetes is an issue not just about our personal health but about our health as a community, both in terms of wellness and economic impact. With the rising cost of health care – and chronic conditions like diabetes accounting for a larger share of medical expenses – we need to make sure we have the right programs in place to not only prevent the incidence of the disease but to help patients manage their diabetes in the best ways possible.
As co-chair of the House Diabetes Caucus, I authored House Resolution 936, which tasked the Joint State Government Commission to assess diabetes programs and diabetes-related planning within Commonwealth state agencies, and to call on state agencies to develop goals and benchmarks to reduce the incidence of diabetes.
The study was just released on March 17 and reported some startling findings, namely that the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in adults aged 18 and over grew by 67 percent between 1995 and 2010. Likewise, nearly 991,000 over the age of 18 have been diagnosed with diabetes in Pennsylvania, and another 517,000 are likely to have undiagnosed diabetes.
The report emphasized that key components are needed to minimize the impact of diabetes – education, along with proper diagnosis and treatment. People must be aware of the measures they can take to avoid the disease and to take effective measures if they have a diagnosis.
At the state level, much of the work to address this public health issue is done by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. On the prevention side, the department helps to fund research and to support regional or local lifestyle change intervention programs to help persons at risk for developing diabetes to avoid becoming victims of it. One such program is operated through the University of Pittsburgh.
On the treatment side, Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) in the state budget funds accredited programs to assist persons living with diabetes to manage the condition and its complication, and health information technology programs seek to increase diagnoses and referrals and uses electronic health records.
Several other smaller programs operate through the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council and the departments of Human Services and Aging to help patients manage their disease by providing lower cost medication or health care services.
But in reviewing the study, I know there is the potential to do so much more. As we begin to dig into the report in more detail, I’ll be looking to see if we can replicate many of the successful programs, especially here in our rural area, and take a look at others to see where we can best direct our resources.
To read the full study and report, visit my website at www.RepOberlander.com.
Representative Donna Oberlander
63rd District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton
RepOberlander.com / Facebook.com/RepOberlander

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