The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have joined the American Medical Association to create a new program aimed reducing the number of Americans diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, one of the most common chronic medical conditions in the United States.

The initiative, entitled “ Prevent Diabetes STAT : Screen, Test, Act – Today,” will focus on individuals who have prediabetes, which is characterized by having blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetic. Unless they are able to lose weight through diet and exercise, 15%-30% of prediabetic individuals are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within 5 years of becoming prediabetic.

“This isn’t just a concern: It’s a crisis,” said AMA president Robert Wah, during a telebriefing on Thursday. “It’s not only taking a physical and emotional toll on people living with prediabetes, but it also takes an economic toll on our country. More than $245 billion in health care spending and reduced productivity is directly linked to diabetes,” Dr. Wah said.

“The truth is, our health care system simply can not sustain the growing number of people developing diabetes,” said Ann Albright, Ph.D., director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, during the same telebriefing. “Research shows that screening, testing, and referring people who are at risk for type 2 diabetes is critical, [and] that when people know they have prediabetes, they are more likely to take action.”

To that end, the AMA and CDC have created an online “ toolkit ” that allows health care providers and patients to understand the risks and signs of prediabetes. The toolkit will offer resources on how to prevent high blood glucose levels from progressing to type 2 diabetes. Additionally, both organizations have created an online screening tool that allows visitors to determine their risk for prediabetes.

Health care providers are another key component of Prevent Diabetes STAT, said Dr. Wah and Dr. Albright, who urged physicians and health care teams to actively screen patients using either the CDC’s Prediabetes Screening Test or the American Diabetes Association’s Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test , test for prediabetes using one of three recommended blood tests, and refer prediabetic patients to a CDC-recognized prevention program.

Prevent Diabetes STAT is intended to be a multiyear program. It represents an expansion of previous efforts undertaken individually by the CDC and AMA to combat the growing diabetes epidemic. In 2012, the CDC created the National Diabetes Prevention Program , using data from the National Institutes of Health, to create a framework of more than 500 programs designed to help people with diabetes institute meaningful lifestyle changes. The AMA launched a similar initiative in 2013 known as Improving Health Outcomes , which included partnering with YMCAs around the country to refer at-risk youths to diabetes prevention programs recognized by the CDC.

“We have seen significant progress, but we’ve really got to be sure that we get this [diabetes initiative] to a larger number of people,” said Dr. Albright. “We need to allow this to be scaled nationally [by] taking the successes that we’ve had and the lessons that we’ve learned, [but] in order to do that, people have to receive a diagnosis of prediabetes so that they can get connected to these services.”

According to the AMA, there are currently more than 86 million individuals in the United States living with prediabetes, yet roughly 90% of those people don’t even know they have it. The CDC estimates that the number of individuals diagnosed with diabetes in the United States more than tripled from 1980 to 2011, going from 5.6 million to nearly 21 million in just over 30 years. In 2011, 19.6 million American adults were diagnosed with diabetes; right now, according to the AMA and CDC, more than 33% of American adults are living with prediabetes.


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