Report Identifies Scope of State Diabetes Epidemic

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UTHSC physicians, in conjunction with individuals at several state healthcare organizations, have produced a comprehensive report addressing the full scope of the diabetes epidemic in Tennessee.

University of Tennessee Health Science Center physicians, in conjunction with individuals at several state healthcare organizations, have produced a comprehensive report addressing the full scope of the diabetes epidemic in Tennessee.

Titled “The Diabetes Epidemic in Tennessee,” the report shows that over the past decade, the number of diabetics in Tennessee has increased by 33 percent and as many as half of Tennesseans may suffer from “metabolic syndrome,” a dangerous pre-diabetic state caused by being overweight and inactive. The authors demonstrate that the vast majority of diabetes is caused by unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle and associated obesity.

According to one of the project’s directors, James E. Bailey, MD, MPH (UT’s Callison Associate Professor and Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine), “The vast majority of diabetes is preventable or curable through exercise and healthy eating habits. But because the underlying causes of diabetes begin in childhood, only early prevention can reverse Tennessee’s diabetes epidemic. We can begin by being aware of this major threat to the health of our communities and take immediate action to promote daily exercise in schools and decrease access to non-nutritional or ‘junk’ food.”

According to the report, research over the past 14 years has demonstrated an association of diabetes and pre-diabetes with hypertension, coronary disease, stroke, hardening of the arteries, asthma, gout, degenerative joint disease, and a host of other serious medical conditions. Pre-diabetes and diabetes together cause the majority of premature disability and mortality in the United States by leading to the diseases that kill and disable most Americans.

The report stresses that “health plans, communities, churches, schools, employers, health professional organizations, and state and local governments need to work together to battle this epidemic through education, community-wide health promotion programs and improved quality of care for all diabetics in Tennessee.”

The 57-page document may be obtained by contacting Deborah Gibson at (901) 448-2561 or it can be downloaded at: www.healthymemphis.org.

The report was compiled in conjunction with Qsourcesm Center for Healthcare Quality, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Health, and the TennCare Drug Utilization Review Program.