The Diabetes Epidemic: A Call To Action For Health Systems

Diabetes is a chronic noncommunicable disease that has escalated into a major public health issue of epidemic proportions. The number of people living with diabetes globally rose dramatically from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million by 2014. This “diabesity” epidemic, a term coined to reflect the intertwined nature of obesity and type 2 diabetes, is likely one of the most significant epidemics in human history. At TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track, we are committed to playing our part in addressing this crisis through comprehensive care and patient education.

Alarmingly, diabetes claimed 6.7 million lives last year alone, cementing its status as a silent yet deadly epidemic. The relentless rise of diabetes underscores the critical role health systems must play in addressing this global crisis. Health systems have the potential to intervene at multiple points, from preventive care and early detection to patient education and management of the disease. The challenge is immense, but so too is the opportunity for health systems to make a significant impact on the trajectory of this devastating epidemic.

Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that effects how your body turns food into energy. The pancreas releases insulin to help your body store and use the sugar from the food you eat. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. This results in too much sugar in your blood, which can cause serious health problems.

There are several types of diabetes that people can experience:

  • Type 1 Diabetes is often diagnosed in children and young adults and is an autoimmune condition where the body does not produce insulin. This causes the immune system to attack and destroy the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for creating insulin.
  • Type 2 Diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and directly affects the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose). In type 2 diabetes patients, either the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or it resists insulin.
  • Gestational Diabetes occurs in some women during pregnancy when the body becomes less sensitive to insulin. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after giving birth.
  • Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are high but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.

Prevalence and Impact on Public Health

Diabetes prevalence has been rising more rapidly in middle- and low-income communities and countries alike. In 2019, nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide had diabetes with a, estimated total of 463 million individuals effected globally. By 2045, this number is projected to rise to 700 million. The global impact on public health is substantial with diabetes being a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation.

Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies for type 2 diabetes

Key risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity, physical inactivity, poor diet, smoking, and family history. The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes. Regular physical activity, a healthy diet, maintaining normal body weight, and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Challenges in Addressing the Diabetes Epidemic

Accessibility and Affordability of Care

One of the primary challenges in addressing the diabetes epidemic is the accessibility and affordability of care. Routine diabetic care is significantly impaired during the current epidemic as many outpatient clinics and training units have been closed. The cost of diabetes management, which often involves multiple medications and regular monitoring, can be a significant financial burden for many individuals, especially those without adequate health insurance. This financial challenge is further compounded by the fact that many diabetics are also managing other health conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Disparities in Diabetes Care and Outcomes

Disparities in diabetes care and outcomes represent another significant challenge. Personal challenges such as cultural beliefs, lack of resources, lifestyle modification difficulties, and lack of family support can hinder effective diabetes self-management. Furthermore, weakened healthcare systems struggle to manage diabetes cases as they battle other healthcare burdens including HIV and malaria.

The Impact of Lifestyle and Environment

Lifestyle and environmental factors play a significant role in exacerbating the diabetes epidemic. Rapid increases in overweight and obesity rates coupled with physical inactivity have contributed to a global surge in diabetes cases. Unhealthy lifestyles fueled by modern sedentary habits and convenient access to processed foods make it challenging for many individuals to maintain optimal health and prevent diseases like diabetes.

Role of Health Systems

Preventive Care and Early Detection

Health systems play a crucial role in preventive care and early detection of diseases like diabetes. Preventive care refers to health services used to prevent diseases and health issues before they occur. This includes regular check-ups, screenings, and patient counseling aimed at detecting early-onset diseases and illnesses. The goal is to shift the focus from diagnosis and therapy to early detection while improving the risk assessment and potential prevention of diseases. Healthcare systems are critical in implementing these preventive measures, and their underutilization often results from an implementation gap rather than an information gap.

Patient Education and Empowerment

By providing patients with knowledge about their conditions, they can take an active role in managing their health. This includes understanding the importance of lifestyle changes, recognizing symptoms, adhering to medication regimens, and knowing when to seek medical assistance. Empowered patients are more likely to engage in preventive behaviors, adhere to treatment plans, and achieve better health outcomes.

Multidisciplinary Approach to Diabetes Management

Diabetes management requires a multidisciplinary approach that involves various healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, and mental health professionals. This team works together to provide comprehensive care that addresses all aspects of diabetes management from medication and diet to mental health support. Health systems must facilitate this collaborative approach, ensuring that all healthcare providers involved in a patient’s care are coordinated and working towards the same goals.

Frequently Asked Questions about Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body doesn’t produce insulin while type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder where the body doesn’t use insulin properly.

Common symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, sudden vision changes, and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.

Diabetes is diagnosed through various tests that measure blood sugar levels. These can include fasting plasma glucose tests, oral glucose tolerance tests, and HbA1c tests.

Risk factors vary depending on the type of diabetes. For Type 1, genetic factors play a major role. For Type 2, risk factors can include being overweight, leading a sedentary lifestyle, having a family history of diabetes, or having gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy.

While there’s no cure for diabetes, it can be managed effectively with lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medication. Some people with Type 2 diabetes can achieve normal blood sugar levels with some of these interventions.

If you’re at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), carrying glucose tablets can be a good idea. They can quickly raise your blood sugar levels in an emergency if they drop too low.

Yes, regular physical activity can help manage blood sugar levels and improve your body’s ability to use insulin. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise regime.

Moving Forward: A Call to Action

Healthcare systems play a pivotal role in curbing the diabetes epidemic. Addressing the diabetes epidemic requires strong collaboration and partnerships across various sectors. Health systems should partner with educational institutions, community organizations, and government agencies to create comprehensive strategies for diabetes prevention and management.

Healthcare systems should also leverage technological advancements to improve diabetes care. This includes using telemedicine and mobile health solutions to enhance patient monitoring, education, and self-management. Furthermore, health systems should focus on improving care for underserved populations who often bear a disproportionate burden of most diseases. At TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track, we understand the critical importance of this approach. That’s why we’re open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week, making it easy for you to fit health care into your busy schedule. Please visit any of our over 18 locations in Tampa, FL, to be seen on a first-come, first-served basis, or if you’d like to reduce your wait time once you arrive, you can sign in ahead of your visit using our On My Way system. Together, we can make a significant impact in curbing this global health crisis.



The blogs presented by TGH Urgent Care in partnership with Fast Track are not a replacement for medical care and are exclusively intended for educational purposes. The content provided here should not be construed as medical guidance. If you are encountering any symptoms, we strongly recommend that you seek an appointment with a duly qualified medical practitioner at our nearest facility.

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