Reports From the Field

Diabetes, obesity threaten Americans’ health

Diabetes and obesity increased dramatically during the 1990s with little change in the public’s habits that cause the two conditions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported.

From 1991 to 2000, there was a 61% increase in obesity and a 49% increase in diabetes among Americans, which can be attributed to the fact that many Americans are not maintaining a proper diet and are not getting enough exercise.

"If we continue on this course for the next decade, the public health implications in terms of both disease and health care costs will be staggering," says Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, CDC director.

Currently about 9.4% of national health care expenditures in the United States are directly related to obesity and physical inactivity, Koplan adds. In 1997, the health care expenditures for diabetes were estimated at $98 billion.

African Americans and those with little education had the highest percentage of both diabetes and obesity. However, according to Frank Vinicor, MD, director of the CDC’s diabetes program, the recent national increases are caused more by lifestyle than genetic make up.

"We are encouraged by new studies that show healthy eating and regular physical activity can actually prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes even in high-risk individuals. Promoting a health lifestyle should be a national priority, beginning in our schools and carrying over into our work places, communities, and especially into our health care system," he says.