Monday, January 09, 2006

An epidemic of bad blood...

We face a slow, emerging crisis in the epidemic facing the country: Diabetes. A lengthy article in the NY Times points out that our current health care system is good at dispensing pills and opening up bodies, but it has proved ineffectual at stopping this disease. One in three children born in the United States five years ago are expected to become diabetic in their lifetimes, according to a projection by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The forecast is even bleaker for Latinos: one in every two.

The Times article points out that there is an underappreciated truth about disease: it will harm you even if you never get it. Disease reverberates outward, and if the illness gets big enough, it brushes everyone. Diabetes is big enough.

Predicting the path of a disease is always speculative, but without bold intervention diabetes threatens to hamper some of society's most basic functions.

For instance, no one with diabetes can join the military, though service members whose disease is diagnosed after enlisting can sometimes stay. No insulin-dependent diabetic can become a commercial pilot.

As more women contract diabetes in their reproductive years, more babies will be born with birth defects. Those needy babies will be raised by parents increasingly crippled by their diabetes. Needless to say, this would be a tremendous drain on Medicare and Medicaid.

Stopping this epidemic is obviously something our government and policy leaders need to make a priority.

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