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The CDC’s Good News on Type 2 Diabetes

In June, the Journal of The American Medical Association published the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent headcount of people with diabetes in the U.S. That CDC data suggests that between 2008 and 2012, the rate of increase in new diagnoses of Types 1 and Type 2 diabetes has slowed. Here are three important takeaways:

1. The Numbers in a Nutshell: Of the approximately 29 million Americans who suffer from diabetes, more than 90% are Type 2 patients. The leveling off of the increase in new cases doesn’t mean that we aren’t seeing more cases of Type 2 diabetes in the U.S each year, but that the rate of increase is slowing. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of new cases rose by 8.3%, a high number, but less than the rate of increase recorded in the years leading up to 2008. Also, new cases reported actually dropped from 1.9 million in 2010 to 1.7 million in 2012.

2. Health Policy-makers are Getting Excited: The fact that this leveling off is greeted with such fanfare is a good indication just how serious the health threat of Type 2 diabetes is to this country. Dr. Ann Albright, co-author of the CDC Estimate, said in a Reuters Health report, “We’re encouraged by [the slowing rates], but it also means that we need to continue to watch … to make sure we can sustain this and ultimately reverse this trend.” Official comment from the CDC also detailed the agency’s ongoing effort to make sure this isn’t just a “blip”, and pointed to other studies showing a slowing in rates of increases in Type 2 diabetes and obesity in some subsections of the population. In other words, the CDC has uncovered hard evidence that years of advice and urging from doctors, trainers, nutritionists, and loved ones seem to be working.

3. How the CDC Estimates Are Developed: To get these numbers, the CDC looks to data gathered from several public health databases, the national census that is taken every 10 years, and the federal public health agencies responsible for native American and Eskimo populations. Largely, though, the CDC relies upon self-reporting surveys and caseload reports submitted by health care facilities and clinicians. That means if someone doesn’t want to talk about their Type 2 diabetes, there’s a good chance they aren’t counted.

If the slowing of rates of increase of Type 2 diabetes is indeed a trend, then there’s hope among healthcare policy-makers that a combination of messaging the importance of combating obesity and targeted efforts to reach at-risk populations could prove successful in combating Type 2 diabetes and curbing rates of obesity.

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