NJ Health Agencies Cope with Soaring Rate of Diabetes
Obesity, longer life spans among factors driving nationwide increase.
New Jersey is seeing an increase in the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes, which now affects more than 9 percent of the adult population, mirroring a nationwide increase.
The dramatic rise in the diabetes rate is now considered a public health crisis, particularly since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that about one-third of people with diabetes are undiagnosed.
Reasons for this increase in the diabetes rate are varied: the inclusion of data to include those with undiagnosed diabetes, increasing rates of obesity coupled with physical inactivity, increasing income disparities reflected by the rate of people living in poverty, low education levels, an increase in immigration from countries with vulnerable populations], people living longer with the disease, and the fact that people are living longer in general.
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJ DOH) is funding programs designed to help prevent diabetes and help people to live with the disease. Emphasis is given to programs that link health-care systems to community partners that work directly with patients.
According to 2010 statistics released by the CDC, an estimated 596,000 adults in New Jersey have been diagnosed with diabetes, an increase from 6.8 percent in 2004 to 9.2 percent in 2010.
In 2006, the total cost of treating people with diabetes in New Jersey was estimated at around $5.8 billion. The national cost in 2007 exceeded $174 billion.
Part of the increase in diabetes cases may be due to a change in how the data is calculated.
According to the National Diabetes Information Clearing House (NDIC), 2007 data used the fasting blood glucose level as a measure of diabetes. The 2011 data included both the fasting blood glucose level and the A1C test, which measures blood glucose levels over the last two months and captures data on undiagnosed and prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes.
The NIH has recently recommended using the A1C test because it does not require fasting. In addition, according to Jennifer Weidenbaum of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), it is a more accurate measure because it tracks the patient’s glucose trends.
The highest percentage of adults diagnosed with diabetes are in Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean, all at 11 percent, and Atlantic, Camden, Essex, Gloucester and Salem at 10 percent, according to 2012 county health rankings. Counties with the lowest percentage (7 percent) of adults diagnosed with diabetes are Hunterdon, Morris and Somerset.
Another risk factor for diabetes is race or ethnicity, with 2007-2009 NDIC survey data indicating 7.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 8.4 percent of Asian Americans, 11.8 percent of Hispanics/Latinos, and 12.6 percent of non-Hispanic blacks having diagnosed diabetes.
Sunil Parik, who runs a diabetic eye-disease detection program in New Jersey, said: “Obesity is a big barrier to improving the quality of life for people. New Jersey has increased its population of Spanish and South Asians, who are at an increased risk for diabetes. A lot of it is (caused by) heredity, the stress of immigration, diet, lack of exercise and access to health care.”
Continue reading on NJSpotlight.com.
NJ Spotlight is an issue-driven news website that provides critical insight to New Jersey’s communities and businesses. It is non-partisan, independent, policy-centered and community-minded.