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Changes to nutrition and policies could cut costs for those with diabetes

Researchers say the move would be lessen the disease’s financial burden

Photo (c) juststock - Getty Images
Diabetes is a widespread disease affecting tens of millions of children and adults in the United States. However, the cost of treating the disease continues to grow exponentially. According to the American Diabetes Association, the total cost of treating diabetes in 2017 rose to $327 billion.

However, there may be hope on the horizon for diabetes patients. Dr. Paul Keckley recently authored a study that could change the game -- and lower costs -- for those affected by diabetes.

Dr. Keckley found that if just 20 percent of the millions of people affected by diabetes could lower their blood glucose levels by one percent, treatment costs would be reduced by $10 billion each year. How could this be accomplished? Keckley points to changes in nutrition and health policies as the main drivers.

“Now is the time to take holistic, comprehensive action that incorporates proven remedies like nutrition therapy to stop the advance of diabetes throughout the American population in its tracks,” said Dr. Keckley. “Despite widespread evidence that proper nutrition can lead to healthier lives and significantly lower healthcare costs, many policymakers and stakeholders continue to advocate for the same tired, inadequate solutions.”

Keys to change

In Keckley’s assessment, there are five major reasons why costs for diabetes treatments continue to rise. They include demographics, confusion about healthy food choices, workplace settings, low policy maker prioritization, and healthcare bias toward medication. He asserts that current approaches treat all patients the same, which is producing less than optimal outcomes.

“This is a public health crisis, and policymakers and public health experts have little to lose and much to gain from abandoning a ‘one-size fits all’ approach” Keckley said. “The future of American public health costs and the Type 2 diabetes sufferers in the U.S. require more creative solutions. Many of these -- like nutrition therapy -- exist. It’s time to make the most of them.”

Nutrition therapy is at the core of Keckley’s initiatives. He believes that patients, policymakers, and healthcare providers need to be educated about how nutrition therapy and proper exercise could improve lives and lower costs. Ensuring that diabetes patients know all the facts, including what health advice to avoid, is imperative to implementing these healthier choices.

For patients that rely on Medicare or other shared payment options, Keckley suggests detailing the positive results of nutrition therapy and carefully explaining how it’s a beneficial option. He says that doing this would allow more people to be exposed to nutrition therapy so that they could learn how to improve their diets and their health.

Overall, Keckley is calling on U.S. Dietary Guidelines to improve their recommendations. He points out that no treatment option is ideal for every patient, and not every diet is ideal for every patient. Rather than push out one standard diet plan, Keckley says that patients should know that there are options available to them, and that should start with the doctors. To do this, he suggests updating screening measures in doctor’s offices and clinics across the country in an effort to bring the most updated quality of care to patients.

“Steps must be taken to contain and reverse the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes,” Keckley said. “Its impact and cost, left unchecked, will undermine the entire healthcare system. More must be done: the status quo is not working.”

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