You and I live in a world of news flashes, but sometimes the real news doesn't garner the biggest headline. For instance, you probably haven't heard that diabetes now kills more Americans every year than AIDS and breast cancer combined.
Nor have most people seen the data that over the past 30 years diabetes has skyrocketed six fold to now affect nearly 30 million Americans -- with another 3,800 diagnoses every day. Add to that recent estimates that as many as 642 million adults around the world could have diabetes in the next 25 years. It seems unfathomable that this surging epidemic has taken a back seat to other diseases affecting far fewer people both in the U.S. and around the world.
To put it in perspective, diabetes affects more than double the number of Americans with cancer and more than thirty times the number of people with HIV/AIDS. Yet the funding for research and the focus on cure development doesn't come close to reflecting that ratio.
And while I, as a doctor, normally discuss diseases in the terms of human impact, diabetes also has a tremendous economic impact. In the U.S. alone, more than $322 billion is spent on diabetes and prediabetes each year. To put that cost in perspective, that's one in five U.S. health care dollars being spent on this epidemic.
So when you look at this news story for what it is -- the medical crisis without a headline -- it's clear that we, as a society, need to intensify our fight to stop this disease. We need to do so now.
Diabetes hurts all of us. Too many children, parents, grandparents, coworkers, neighbors and kind strangers are burdened by this serious disease. The longer we wait to make substantial and sustained investments in diabetes prevention, education and progress toward cures, the greater the toll on our society now and for future generations.
During a recent presentation at a diabetes-related event, I encouraged the audience to interrupt me at any time and ask questions. Katie, a 9-year-old who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a toddler, decided to take me up on that.
Cutting right to the chase, Katie confidently spoke up and asked when she could expect to be cured.
She wondered if we weren't smart enough or just not working hard enough. Were we not spending enough money on researching a cure? It was clear she thought we should be doing more. I could hear the frustration in her voice and her palpable sense of urgency moved me.
As I struggled to answer, I realized that while there have been great advancements in treating diabetes and its complications, our progress toward a cure is not swift enough.
You and I need to turn up the heat. Together, we need to bring awareness of diabetes to the forefront of society. We need to kindle support for advocacy, education and research until our society takes note and takes action. We need to make sure that diabetes is highly visible, frequently discussed and the target of our very best research efforts.
Would you join me in recognizing the urgency and mobilizing those around us to advocate for the crucial work against this epidemic?
I want to be able to look people like Katie in the eye and tell them that we share their urgency and are doing everything we can to achieve life free of diabetes. Now is the time. Together we can make it happen. Let's give this epidemic more than a headline. Let's give it a page in history.