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Plan would put state in forefront of diabetes war

Our Opinion
George Huntley and Larry Smith, Guest Writers

There are few things that present a greater challenge to Indiana’s future prosperity and quality of life than the diabetes epidemic. How the state confronts diabetes today could be the most important legacy our generation of leaders can leave for the future.
The impact of diabetes on the citizens of Indiana cannot be overstated.
Over 825,000 Hoosiers ‘ more than 12 percent of the state’s adult population ‘ are now living with diabetes. Another 1,660,000 are estimated to have prediabetes, many of whom will develop diabetes in the future without intervention. (Source: Institute for Alternative Futures,
Estimates of the medical and non-medical costs of diabetes in Indiana are as high as $7.73 billion a year. Simply put, the direct and indirect cost of diabetes to the state’s economy is roughly equivalent to one-fourth of the state budget.
And it is going to get worse.
In another 10 years, those costs are expected to approach $10 billion annually. Over a million Indiana citizens will have diabetes, either diagnosed or undiagnosed. Another 1.7 million will have prediabetes.
The financial toll inflicted on Indiana by diabetes is staggering. Moreover, left unaddressed, the human toll is, and will continue to be, catastrophic.
Clearly, it is time for action. Action for the sake of the thousands of Indiana residents affected by the diabetes epidemic and the many additional tens of thousands who will be affected in the future.
Indiana simply cannot accept the status quo in diabetes prevention and care, not when there are meaningful steps that can be taken to help the thousands of health care professionals, educators, volunteers and others already enlisted in the fight against diabetes.
Leaders in state government have a chance to join them in the fight and do something that will have a lasting, positive impact on the future of the state and its citizens.
A proposal currently before the Indiana General Assembly would create a framework and guidelines for developing of a comprehensive, statewide diabetes action plan that would bring a new level of coordination and accountability to Indiana’s efforts to fight diabetes.
Similar legislation already in place in 18 other states is enabling government leaders and health care professionals to develop new strategies to bring efficiency and improved communications to their fight against diabetes. New levels of coordination and collaboration among government agencies are being required that are making state efforts more efficient and effective.
Today, the impact and financial toll of diabetes in those states are being viewed ‘ in many cases for the first time ‘ in relationship to other chronic diseases so that care and prevention strategies can be improved. Bureaucratic barriers are being brought down and turf battles eliminated as agencies learn to work together.
Requiring state agencies to collaborate in the preparation and execution of a statewide diabetes action plan creates an environment in which everyone has access to all of the important information necessary to develop more effective strategies and brings much needed accountability to their efforts.
Another significant feature of the proposed legislation is the fact that it acknowledges the tangible role that health care providers, diabetes educators and others play in the sponsorship and expansion of prevention strategies and seeks to more effectively assimilate the energies of thousands of groups and individuals already at work in diabetes education prevention and care.
Inexplicably, there are those who oppose what is fiscally sound and politically benign legislation that could actually save the state millions of dollars, not to mention the lives of Indiana citizens.
They are making false and outrageous claims that the legislation will actually cost the state additional money.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Rather than spend more money, the Indiana proposal seeks to effectively promote change and improvement in the way the state addresses the diabetes epidemic by investing existing funds more effectively and holding everyone more accountable.
Diabetes is destroying lives in Indiana. It is destroying families. And it is costing billions of dollars every year in direct and indirect costs to the state’s economy.
A comprehensive, statewide diabetes action plan can be a valuable tool for making prevention efforts more effective and existing programs more accountable.
We ask legislators to ignore the false claims of those whose sole motivation appears to be the desire to protect the status quo. We urge you to advance this important legislation that will put Indiana at the forefront of the war against diabetes.
George Huntley of Indianapolis and Larry Smith of Lexington, Ky., are leaders of the National Diabetes Volunteer Leadership Council. Both have served as chairman of the American Diabetes Association’s national board of directors.