As diabetes rates rise, new projects combat the disease

The prevalence of diabetes in the U.S. climbed to a new high of 11.6 percent last year, up from 10.6 percent in 2008, according to a new report by Gallup and Sharecare titled “The Face of Diabetes in the United States.”

“If the diabetes rate had held steady at its 2008 level rather than increased, 2.5 million fewer U.S. adults would have the disease today. Hospitals, health systems, employers, community leaders and other champions of population health are implementing both inpatient and outpatient solutions to address this rising epidemic,” said the report released this summer.

Without differentiating between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the report analyzes diabetes prevalence across key demographics, occupations and regions. Neither does it take into account whether those surveyed were undergoing treatment. Rather, the new numbers are based on the answer to the question, “Has a doctor or nurse ever told you that you have diabetes?”

“By shedding light on where diabetes rates are higher or lower than the national average by a statistically significant margin, these data can be used to more effectively target investments and customize programs that address specific populations who are at greatest risk,” the report states.

Among the key findings:

  • The analysis shows that prevalence spikes in the South, with a 12.8 percent diabetes rate in 2016. Previous research by Gallup and Sharecare shows that people in southern-based states and communities have “some of the highest prevalence rates in the nation.”
  • Seven of the 10 states and communities with the highest diabetes rates are Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina and Arkansas, each having more than 14 percent of their population reporting having been diagnosed with diabetes.
  • The demographic insights show a slightly higher prevalence of diabetes among women versus men and a higher prevalence rate among Blacks as compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
  • It also reveals a direct correlation between age and higher diabetes prevalence: Seniors age 65 and older have an alarming 23.6 percent prevalence rate.
  • Income and education levels have an inverse relationship with diabetes — prevalence of the disease “falls as education and income levels rise.”
  • Additionally, those who are divorced, separated or widowed have much higher prevalence of diabetes than those who are single, in a domestic partnership, or married.

Health and wellness consultant Sheila Holcomb said objectives for diabetes care must gravitate from just treatment to lowing its prevalence by holistically “slowing the progression of the disease.” In that regard, community-based organizations, nonprofits, government agencies and hospitals have formed partnerships promoting healthier lifestyles to abate the rise of nutrition-related diseases such as diabetes.

One such project, Partnering4Health, has been funded for three years by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to promote healthy lifestyles and decrease morbidity and mortality due to costly chronic diseases,” according to the executive summary of a report on the partnership. “The aim of each funding initiative was to stimulate communities’ adoption of policies, systems, and environments that would make communities healthier and promote individuals’ healthy choices.”

In a nutshell, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported last year that “African Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic Whites. In addition, they are more likely to suffer complications from diabetes, such as end-stage renal disease and lower extremity amputations.”

The Partnering4Health project has resulted in a three-percent reduction in the rates of death and disability due to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. But the Gallop report reveals the necessity for persistence in dealing with the daunting issue of diabetes in the Black community through continued education and information.

Holcomb concluded, “With the alarming rise in prediabetes and diabetes nationwide, there is an urgent need for hospitals and health systems to develop efficient, integrated approaches to diabetes care. Comprehensive inpatient glycemic and outpatient diabetes management programs can and do change the trajectory of the disease and help those with diabetes better manage their condition and live a higher quality of life.”


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