More than 100,000 Americans will die from diabetes in 2021, marking the second consecutive year of that grim milestone and spurring a call for a similar federal mobilization in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The new figures come as a panel of experts urges Congress to review diabetes care and prevention, including recommendations to move beyond reliance on medical interventions alone.
A report released earlier this month calls for much broader policy changes to stop the diabetes epidemicsuch as promoting healthier food consumption, ensuring paid maternity leave in the workplace, taxing sugary drinks, and expanding access to affordable housing, among other areas.
In 2019, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 87,000 lives, reflecting a widespread failure to address the disease and leaving many more vulnerable when the pandemic hit. covid-19 pandemic, creating new barriers to accessing care.
Since then, the number of deaths from diabetes in the country has risen sharply, exceeding 100,000 deaths in each of the last two years and representing a new record level, according to a Reuters analysis of provisional death data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Diabetes-related deaths increased 17% in 2020 and 15% in 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic level in 2019. That excluded deaths directly attributed to Covid-19. The CDC agreed with the Reuters analysis and said additional deaths from 2021 are still being counted.
“The large number of diabetes deaths for the second year in a row is certainly cause for alarm,” said Paul Hsu, an epidemiologist at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “Type 2 diabetes itself is relatively preventable, making it all the more tragic that so many deaths occur.”
In a new report, the congressionally created National Commission on Clinical Care said the United States must take a more comprehensive approach to prevent more people from developing type 2 diabetes, the most common form, and to help people who have already been diagnosed to avoid life-threatening complications.
About 37 million Americans, or 11% of the population, have diabetes, and one in three Americans will develop the chronic disease during their lifetimes if current trends continue, according to the commission.
“Diabetes in the United States cannot be viewed simply as a health care or medical problem, but must also be addressed as a social problem that affects many sectors, including food, housing, commerce, transportation and transportation.” environment,” the commission wrote in its January 5 Report to Congress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The federal panel recommended that Congress create an Office of National Diabetes Policy to coordinate efforts across government and oversee changes outside of health policy.
“We are not going to cure the diabetes problem in the United States with medical interventions,” Herman told Reuters. “The idea is to bring something together between the federal agencies, so that they systematically communicate with each other.”
More cases, worse prognosis
As Reuters reported last year in a series of reports, diabetes represents a major public health gap in the United States. The number of Americans with the disease has skyrocketed in recent decades and their prognosis has worsened, even as spending on new treatments has skyrocketed.
The pandemic has been especially deadly for people with diabetes. People with poorly controlled diabetes have at least twice the risk of death from Covid-19, according to the report. And diabetes and its complications are more common in low-income Americans and people of color, longstanding disparities that were most exposed during the pandemic.
Dr. Shari Bolen, a commission member and associate professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University and the MetroHealth System in Cleveland, said the staggering number of diabetes deaths is “disheartening, but also a call to action.”
The federal panel report marked the first review of its kind on diabetes since 1975. During that time, the prevalence of diabetes among American adults rose from 5.3% in the late 1970s to 14.3% in 2018, He said.
Direct medical costs related to diabetes were $237 billion in 2017, and an estimated $90 billion was lost due to lower productivity in the United States.