Confronting Type 2 Diabetes, a National Epidemic

The statistics are staggering: healthcare experts say that diabetes – the chronic disease that affects more than 29 million Americans today – has reached epidemic proportions. The cost of diabetes in 2012 in the United States was $245 billion in healthcare expenses, and authorities predict that if historic trends continue, there could be as many as one-in-three people living with diabetes by 2050.

While new treatment approaches have become available over the last decade, more work can be done to improve the quality of care and outcomes for people with diabetes. How can the health system best manage the country’s growing diabetes epidemic? What should healthcare providers do to better educate their patients about the disease? And how can the health system work together to better coordinate their treatment?

These were the main discussion topics at a thought leader dinner during American Diabetes Month, hosted by AstraZeneca in partnership with the National Journal, and moderated by Steve Clemons, Washington Editor-at-Large,National Journal and The Atlantic.

Topher Brooke, Vice President, U.S. Diabetes, AstraZeneca, who was joined by Lori Tierney, Vice President, Commercial Operations, AstraZeneca, kicked off the discussion by emphasizing the unmet patient needs in managing type 2 diabetes, and focusing on early action in the treatment paradigm.

As a company committed to advancing the national dialogue around diabetes, members of AstraZeneca’s North America leadership team were joined by 14 thought leaders and members of the media from leading organizations like the American Diabetes Association, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington Business Journal and others.

The candid discussion focused on a variety of topics, including education, prevention and pre-diabetes, and lack of attention as a public health topic – highlighting the enormity and multi-faceted nature of this chronic disease. Attendees focused part of the importance of healthcare providers in the equation. With the growing number of people who have or will develop type 2 diabetes, it is more important now than ever before to have the appropriate number of endocrinologists, primary care doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and diabetes educators to meet the needs of patients.

The dinner guests aligned on the need for greater education for healthcare providers and patients, and to create urgency around diabetes – stressing a potential “lightening rod” idea that could spark behavior change when it comes to lifestyle modifications and hopefully preventing people from developing diabetes.

Several of the guests highlighted the importance of taking local community-based initiatives that are having impact for people living with diabetes, and launching those in other parts of the country, to ultimately scale up those pilot programs to service a greater number of communities.

At the conclusion of the evening, there was a common agreement that despite the large task at hand to manage the growing diabetes epidemic, there is much that can be done when we combine efforts across key parties including health care providers, patients, public and private organizations, and the health system as a whole to achieve better health outcomes.

The dinner was part of a series of events coordinated by National Journal LIVE, a premier events business that convenes top leaders in the Washington, D.C. area to discuss possible solutions to the country’s biggest challenges.