Desmond Schatz, MD; Mark Harmel, MPH


June 17, 2016

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The title of my presidential address here at ADA 2016 was "Diabetes at 212 Degrees: Confronting the Invisible Disease."

Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century. The numbers are staggering and the epidemic amazing. Yet, it seems that the public and the governments of the world are not paying much attention. If it were the Zika virus, an acute infectious disease, or HIV, the government would be paying attention and the people would be taking this seriously.

We are not spending enough money on the disease itself or on research to find a cure. Diabetes is invisible to everyone except the individual who has the disease. We have to turn diabetes from a highly invisible disease to a very powerful and highly visible disease.

The onset of diabetes is still missed and there are still children dying of diabetic ketoacidosis. Roughly 20%-30% of all children with diabetes present initially in diabetic ketoacidosis, which continues to be associated with morbidity and mortality.

Moreover, the diagnosis of the disease is often delayed. Several studies have shown that there is up to a 6-year delay between the onset of diabetes and the diagnosis of the disease.

Diabetes affects 30 million Americans; 90% of these have type 2 diabetes. A staggering 8 million Americans do not even know that they have the disease. Worldwide, diabetes affects 415 million people, and up to 46% of people worldwide do not know that they have diabetes. In Africa, the numbers are even more staggering, exceeding 60%.

It is our goal to turn diabetes from a highly invisible disease into a very visible disease. The amount of money spent on diabetes research at the level of the National Institutes of Health pales in comparison to what is spent per patient for other diseases, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS.

It is crucial that we turn the tide and increase the focus on diabetes.


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