Public Release: 

Leaders work to establish diabetes plan for Pennsylvania

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 7-- Top diabetes researchers, clinicians and other leaders from government, public health agencies, business, insurance, hospitals, patient advocacy groups and volunteer organizations will take part in a Pennsylvania Diabetes Summit on Nov. 14 to create a comprehensive diabetes control plan to reduce the human and economic burden of diabetes in Pennsylvania.

Some 200 people are expected to participate in summit sessions, which will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, at the Ronald B. Herberman Conference Center at the UPMC Cancer Pavilion, 5225 Centre Ave. in Shadyside.

Congressman John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania's 12th District, who is the ranking member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and a strong supporter of diabetes initiatives, will convene the summit.

"I am delighted to be part of a forum convened to address one of the most pressing health issues confronting the state today - an issue that has been one of my top priorities," said U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Johnstown. "This summit is a critical first step in the development of a comprehensive, strategic plan to address an epidemic of diabetes that is robbing Pennsylvanians of their quality of life and putting an enormous financial strain on the nation's overburdened healthcare system."

Also speaking at the event:

  • Frank Vinicor, M.D., M.P.H., director of the division of diabetes translation for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, will give a keynote address on "The State of the Nation; Diabetes in the U.S."
  • Calvin B. Johnson, M.D., secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, will discuss "The State of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."
  • Robert Gabbay, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine, Penn State University, will speak on "Novel Approaches: Taking Science from the Bench to the Community."
  • Thomas Songer, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, will speak on "The Economics of Diabetes."
  • Diabetes patients and advocates Charles Greenlee, Michael Weiss and Nicole Johnson Baker, Miss America 1999, will discuss their personal experiences.

Nearly 8 percent of Pennsylvanians - an estimated 660,000 adults and 4,800 children - have diabetes and experts estimate that 1.5 million new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. In fact, newly released statistics from the CDC note that the incidence of diabetes has risen more than 14 percent in the past two years. Diabetes accounts for about $7.7 billion in total health care costs every year in Pennsylvania - and $132 billion nationwide.

"In Pennsylvania, diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death and takes a great toll on our state's physical and financial health," said state Health Secretary Dr. Calvin B. Johnson. "Today's summit is a positive step toward generating innovative ways to address the impact diabetes is having in Pennsylvania and across the nation."

Nationally, diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death, according to the American Diabetes Association. Many people first become aware of the disease when confronted with one of its life-threatening complications such as heart disease, blindness, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease or circulatory problems leading to amputation. Women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a substantially increased risk of acquiring the disorder later in life, and women who have diabetes before becoming pregnant face a higher risk of complications for themselves and their babies. One out of every 10 healthcare dollars is spent on diabetes and its complications.

"This summit is unique," said Linda Siminerio, Ph.D., executive director of the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute, which is hosting the summit. "Pennsylvania is taking action by organizing efforts with leaders from insurers, employers, government, advocacy, health care providers, consumers and research groups who will work together to identify possible solutions and devise an operational statewide plan that could help to stem the epidemic of diabetes."

Today, the CDC estimates that 20.8 million Americans - some 7 percent of the U.S. population - already have diabetes, making Pennsylvania's 8 percent rate higher than the national average. These numbers underscore the need for all Americans with diabetes to have access to ample, affordable health care.

"Diabetes is a serious, widespread and costly chronic disease, affecting millions of families and communities," said Frank Vinicor, M.D., M.P.H., director of the division of diabetes translation at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and keynote speaker for the Pennsylvania Diabetes Summit. "Between 1990 and 1998, diabetes prevalence among adults increased 33 percent in the U.S., growing fastest among adults aged 30 to 39. CDC estimates that the number of Americans with diagnosed diabetes will increase from 11 million to 30 million between 2000 and 2050."

Goals for the summit include opportunities to explore a statewide diabetes data collection system; agreement on standards of care and best practices for diabetes prevention and management of the disease; development of a system to evaluate any plan's effectiveness; and the implementation of policies that promote and ensure the health and safety of those already affected by diabetes.


Frank Raczkiewicz

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