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Physicians find diabetes is a stubborn foe

Connected coverage — selected articles on trends, challenges and controversies in the changing world of medicine.

Posted July 22, 2013

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Diabetes rates in the U.S. are worsening, leading to hundreds of billions in annual costs to the system as well as untold amounts of human suffering. The problem posed by the chronic condition is so bad that when the American Medical Association recently launched a multimillion-dollar campaign to improve patient health outcomes, it chose diabetes and cardiovascular disease as the two illnesses on which to focus its initial efforts.

American Medical News regularly checks in on the world of diabetes. Physicians and other preventive health experts are finding some new, promising efforts to battle the costly disease by educating both doctors and patients on proper prevention and treatment. But the specter of diabetes is still a grim one, with many doctors encountering a potentially deadly lack of patient awareness as well as the expansion of the epidemic into potentially unexpected places.

Programs deliver success for overweight, diabetic patients

Given the correlation between body mass index and the prevalence of diabetes, physicians have tried to find innovative ways for patients to drop the pounds and keep them off. Now a weight management program by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs — dubbed MOVE! — is showing some success. Data showed that overweight veterans, especially those with diabetes, who followed the program’s regimen of wise eating choices and physical activity showed decreases in net weight and mean BMI.

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Teaching adults about prediabetes an uphill battle

One key way to tackle diabetes is to get patients to take action when they’re still prediabetic — when glucose levels are elevated but the full onset of the disease has not yet occurred. But that requires patients to be aware of their risks for the chronic condition, and the vast majority aren’t. One recent study found that only 11% of adults with prediabetes were aware of it, pointing to a pressing need for physicians to be screening more and referring patients to intervention programs.

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AAP offers first clinical guidance for type 2 diabetes

In a troubling sign of the scope of the problem, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued the first set of clinical practice guidelines to help physicians care for children with type 2 diabetes. The illness, long considered an adult disease, makes up an estimated one in three new diabetes cases among patients under 18. The academy recommended that doctors integrate lifestyle modifications, such as improved diet and exercise, with medication for type 2 diabetic children ages 10 to 18.

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