The high cost of chronic disease is one of the most pressing issues facing the United States as legislators grapple with financial strains on Medicare and the larger issue of health-care reform, the researchers say.
Factors driving the increase in diabetes cases include the aging population and continued high rates of obesity, both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, in which the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells don't use it correctly. In the study, the researchers assumed that the obesity rate would remain relatively stable, topping out at about 30 percent in the next decade and then declining slightly to about 27 percent in 2033.
Dr. David Kendall, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association, said the study is one of several recent papers predicting a dramatic rise in the incidence of diabetes. And though which methodology provides the most accurate predictions is open to debate, he said, the overarching message is that steps need to be taken to prevent diabetes from overwhelming an already overburdened health-care system.
"This is, in a sense, evidence of an iceberg," Kendall said. "What we are seeing currently is only a fraction of the potential future risk."
In making their estimates, the researchers used data on people 24 to 85 years old who took part in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Health Interview Study.
"This is clearly a very pressing problem," said study co-author Michael O'Grady, a senior fellow at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. "It's one of the few chronic illnesses we have that is growing, and the cost of doing nothing is going to be quite high."
Matt Peterson, director of information resources at the American Diabetes Association, said that community-based intervent
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