Diabetes affects roughly one of every three children born after 2000 in the United States. (Courtesy photo)
Diabetes affects roughly one of every three children born after 2000 in the United States. (Courtesy photo)

A growing number of residents in the D.C. region are feeling the effects of diabetes as thousands suffer from the disease, and many others may have the illness and don’t know it.

An estimated one of every three children born after 2000 in the United States will be directly affected by diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association in northwest D.C.

Those at the local office said they’re committed to educating the public about how to stop diabetes and support those living with the disease, having established a program to train volunteers to implement diabetes and wellness education workshops in the greater Washington metropolitan area.

The goal is to give people who are passionate about health promotion the resources they need to act by leading workshops on diabetes and wellness in their communities, said Jackie Del Aguila of the association’s D.C. office.

These workshops will help get the word out about prevention strategies and the dangers of uncontrolled diabetes. The association also hopes these workshops become places community members can exchange ideas about what they are doing to stay healthy, Del Aguila said.

“The ideal audience will be people that you know from your communities,” she said, adding that trainings to become an American Diabetes Association ambassador will be held every other month and individuals can learn more by visiting the American Diabetes Association website. “Ambassador volunteers have the opportunity to motivate friends, family and members of the community to join the fight to stop diabetes.”

Underscoring the importance of diabetes and the African-American community, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Mary Katherine Wakefield said earlier this year that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has been tackling a diabetes, which she called a major health issue in the black community.

“In the next five minutes, two people will die from diabetes-related causes and that’s very significant,” Wakefield said. “Diabetes illustrates some of our country’s deepest disparities. Today, African-Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. They are twice as likely to die from it.

“Too often it claims a family member or a friend too soon and it’s a particularly burden on low-income families, but it’s a disease we can manage and effectively prevent,” she said.

Wakefield, who has a long and distinguished career in government and health care and is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and a member of the Institute of Medicine, said information is the key.

She said several programs funded because of Obamacare, such as a YMCA diabetes clinic, have proven successful.

Her comments echoed a report by Neil Schoenherr of the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis which highlighted that Obamacare has great potential to improve health and health care for people with diabetes.

Schoenherr found that from 2011 through 2012, shortly after passage of Obamacare, nearly 2 million working-age adults with diabetes lacked health insurance and access to care — a significant barrier among blacks — while proper diabetes care lagged among the insured on all indicators.

The study, “Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Access to Care for US Adults with Diabetes, 2011-2012,” was published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

“To the extent that the ACA increases access and coverage, uninsured people with diabetes are likely to significantly increase their health care use, which may lead to reduced incidence of diabetes complications and improved health,” said Timothy McBride, co-author of the study and a professor and health economist at the Brown School.

Brown examined demographics, access to care, health care use and health care expenditures of adults with diabetes aged 19-64 by using the 2011 and 2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

They found that uninsured adults reported poorer access to care than insured adults, such as having a usual source of health care and having lower rates of utilization of six key diabetes preventive-care services. Insured adults with diabetes were found to have significantly higher health care expenditures than uninsured adults.

“Previous published work has shown that the uninsured face significant barriers to obtaining health care and face higher out-of-pocket health care costs than the insured,” the study’s authors said. “In addition, the uninsured can experience health problems as a result of the lack of access to medical care. Although much research has focused on the general uninsured population, few studies have focused on the population with diabetes.”

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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