Diabetes cases merit attention, leader says
Diabetes is more than an epidemic in the United States and the world -- it is a pandemic that is growing, says Rear Adm. Kenneth P. Moritsugu, who recently retired as acting U.S. surgeon general.
Moritsugu said 21 million Americans have diabetes and 54 million are pre-diabetic and will progress to type 2 diabetes -- a total of 75 million out of the nation's 300 million people.
"One in four people in the United States either has or will have diabetes," he said last Saturday in a keynote talk at the ninth Taking Control of Your Diabetes Conference at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Stressing the importance of "Measuring, Managing and Mastering Diabetes," Moritsugu described how he was diagnosed with latent autoimmune diabetes, an unusual form of type 1 diabetes, during a routine examination seven years ago.
He cited three priorities to improve national health: to transform the health care system to focus on prevention and early treatment of diabetes; to prepare people with the chronic disease to care for themselves in a disaster; and to eliminate health disparities.
An estimated 100,000 Hawaii residents have diabetes, but about one-third do not know it, diabetes specialists have said. Asian, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations are at high risk for the disease.
"It pains me to realize diabetes has such a bad effect on the health and happiness of the people of Hawaii," said Moritsugu, 63.
Patricia Knapp, 31, of Waikiki said she was a senior in high school and "did the defiance thing" when she was diagnosed at age 17 with insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes. She did not begin dealing with it until learning the ramifications of the disease while studying nursing in her second year at York College of Pennsylvania, she said.
She is now a nurse in the Queen's Medical Center's cardiac intensive care unit and says she is in better control of her diabetes since getting an insulin pump two months ago.
Knapp was among nearly 1,400 patients, health care professionals, educators and vendors attending the conference, hosted by Taking Control of Your Diabetes, a nonprofit San Diego organization.