Study: Half of U.S. Will Be Diabetic by 2020

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A new study by UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization indicates that more than half of Americans will have diabetes or be pre-diabetic by 2020.

Such a phenomenon would cost the health care system $3.35 trillion over the next decade.

"Our new research shows there is a diabetes time bomb ticking in America, but fortunately there are practical steps that can be taken now to defuse it," Simon Stevens, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, and chairman of the Center for Health Reform & Modernization, said in a statement.

Currently, 26 million people suffer from diabetes, one of the fastest growing diseases in the U.S.  Another 67 million are pre-diabetic.    

Obesity is generally the cause of the illness. Researchers warn that people need to start taking preventative measures before it's too late.

"Prevention of diabetes means weight reduction, including nutrition counseling and exercise, and most payers don't cover these," Leonid Poretsky, MD, director of the Friedman Diabetes Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, told WebMD.

"We need a sense of urgency," said Deneen Vojta, MD, UnitedHealth senior vice president. "There is a lot of money and human suffering at stake."
    
"The good news is that we know what works, and if we work together in a concerted national way, we can win," Vojta said.

--Originally published Nov. 24, 2010.  

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