The city of Seattle and King County last week released the latest community data report on diabetes, highlighting trends and health inequities in a disease that now affects more than 84,000 King County adults. The number of county residents with diabetes has doubled in the last decade and such a rapid increase in a chronic illness is very rare.
"Many people can avoid developing diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight and increasing their physical activity," said Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for public health, Seattle and King County. "By getting the obesity epidemic under control we will also make a significant impact on diabetes."
About six percent of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes. Many more who have the disease are unaware of their condition.
The cost of diabetes deaths, hospitalizations and sickness are high. In King County, the estimated yearly cost of health care, lost workdays, disability and other consequences of the illness is over $1 billion, with the majority of costs going to patient care. For people with diabetes, complications, hospitalizations and deaths are also potentially preventable with access to high quality health care and disease management.
"Health inequities are a particular concern with diabetes," said Dr. Jim Krieger, one of the report's authors. "Low-income people and members of racial and ethnic minorities are substantially more likely to have diabetes and to die from it."
Other findings in the report include:
African Americans are 2.6 times more likely to be affected by diabetes than Whites and have a death rate over three times as high. The death rate for King County African Americans is 26 percent higher than for African Americans in the United States as a whole.
Pacific Islanders, Asians and American Indians/Alaska Natives are also more likely to have diabetes.
Some neighborhoods are hot spots with dramatically higher death rates. For instance, Southeast Seattle rates are more than four times the rate for Mercer Island.
Many people with diabetes do not receive health services that can control blood sugar levels and prevent complications.
The full report may be found at http://www.metrokc.gov/health/datawatch/
Public Health engages in community partnerships that address diabetes, including:
The REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) Project
The REACH Coalition is a partnership of community based agencies, community groups, educational and research institutions, public health agencies, hospitals and health care providers, and people living with diabetes working together to reduce diabetes-related health disparities in King County.
The coalition partners provide culturally tailored diabetes education and self-management classes, along with support groups to African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and Latinos/Hispanics. For more details, visit www.metrokc.gov/health/reach/index.htm
Steps to Health in Seattle and King County is a federally-funded program led by community partners and Public Health, Seattle and King County that focuses on asthma, diabetes, obesity, nutrition, physical activity and tobacco. Steps supports activities and policy changes in schools, health care settings, and communities to prevent obesity and improve the care of diabetes. Steps emphasizes reducing diabetes disparities. The intervention area includes South Seattle and adjacent South King County.