INDIANAPOLIS IN – High school students across greater western Montgomery County PA and almost any other part of the country, who are looking ahead to the potential of jobs in health care, may want to put exploring diabetes at the top of their lists. Sadly, according to the leader of the American Association of Diabetes Educators, that’s because the disease has reached epidemic proportions and may affect as many as 100 million people by the year 2050.
Speaking Wednesday (Aug. 1, 2012) in Indianapolis at its 39th annual meeting, association President Sandi Burke declared diabetes education “at a crossroads” because there currently are too few instructors to meet an exploding demand. Her organization represents the nation’s 17,000 certified diabetes educators, but she predicted the country would need about three times that many in the future to cope with the disease.
Diabetes creates difficulty in a body’s ability to control glucose, the amount of sugar contained in the blood. Because glucose is the “fuel” the body consumes to accomplish any task, levels that are too high or too low can lead to disabilities and even death if not regulated. Glucose can be controlled by medication, with proper exercise, by eating healthy foods, and by emerging technologies. Diabetes educators teach and guide patients in ways that eventually help them manage the disease themselves.
Americans’ increasing obesity, their hunger for fast and junk foods, and their reluctance to exercise regularly are among factors driving diabetes’ rapid rise. Twenty-six million, or more than 8 percent of the U.S. population, have the disease now, and about 30 percent of them don’t know it, experts say. Another 79 million are considered pre-diabetic, or disposed to the disease, and about 90 percent of them are unaware of it too.
Those staggering numbers, Burke said, indicate that so far diabetes education is “just reaching the tip of the iceberg.” She encouraged the crowd of more than 2,000 in attendance to encourage young people in careers as educators and dietitians. As many as 54,000 will be needed in less than 15 years, she said.
Photo from American Association of Diabetes Educators
This article is one of several about diabetes prevention, diagnosis and care based on advance and live reporting Aug. 1-4, 2012, by The Post Publications from the American Association of Diabetes Educators 2012 conference in Indianapolis IN. Follow us on Twitter at @PostsOnHealth; we’re using the hashtag #PostsAADE2012 to identify conference Tweets. Follow us on Facebook at The Post Publications. See the entire series here.