Diabetes prevention focus of W.Va. meeting

JOHN RABY, Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal health officials on Thursday urged a renewed focus on diabetes prevention efforts in West Virginia, where more than one in 10 adults has the disease.

The Appalachian Regional Commission sponsored a roundtable discussion attended by health professionals and representatives of state and other agencies.

One in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes over their lifetimes, said Dr. Ann Albright, director of the division of diabetes control and translation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"What an opportunity we have to make a huge difference," Albright said. "The charge before all of us is do we have ... the political will, the fortitude, the energy to make things happen, to improve the outcome?

"No question, we need more science, we need more answers. We ultimately need cures for diabetes, for sure, but there are things we can do that are really going to make a difference in the immediate future."

While work needs to be done on childhood diabetes and health issues involving pregnant women and childhood obesity, the focus is on the 79 million American adults who have prediabetes, which leaves them at the greatest risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Albright said.

"If you're going to have the economic discussion, we've got a whole big bunch of people that are very close to stepping off into the expensive world of diabetes," Albright said.

Without lifestyle changes, the CDC estimates up to half of those with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

Gina Wood, director of diabetes control and prevention for the state Bureau for Public Health, estimated that 466,000 West Virginia residents, or 26 percent of the state's population, have early stages of type 2 diabetes _ and tens of thousands are unaware.

In West Virginia, alone, type 2 diabetes will cost an estimated $3 billion by 2025, Wood said.

"West Virginia really needs this program," Wood said. "Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. We can do this."

The CDC's diabetes prevention efforts are based on a research study headed by the National Institutes of Health that found 58 percent of people with prediabetes were able to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes through weight loss and increased physical activity.

The national program's components include training and implementing quality programs, and increasing the number of program sites and patient referrals. Albright said it offers classes that help participants choose healthier foods, increase physical activity and learn approaches for maintaining those changes.

The classes are led by trained coaches that meet in 16 sessions. After that, the classes meet monthly for six months.

Wood said state health officials will offer information webinars on implementing diabetes prevention programs in the coming months with potential partners.

"This is going to allow us to identify organizations that have the capacity to deliver this program in a cost-effective way," Wood said.

Last week, the ARC issued a $257,000 grant to Marshall University for a project that provides diabetes education, prevention and monitoring. The ARC and the CDC have committed nearly $2.6 million to the project since 2002.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller presented a video message at the meeting and called diabetes "a statewide epidemic."

"Diabetes isn't something we can brush aside," he said. "And this forum is an important step forward."