Wasting Money on Diabetes Education That Fails to Teach the Right Things
Here is some seemingly good news about diabetes. The United Health Foundation, the nonprofit charitable arm of United Health Group, recently announced a research grant of $2 million dollars to help prevent obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the Third Ward of Houston, Texas. The University of Houston’s HEALTH Research Institute will administer the grant.
This sounds like an excellent grant on the surface, doesn’t it? After all, Texas is not unlike most other US states in that obesity and diabetes are quickly rising. It is not surprising that nearly one in three adults in Texas is obese, according to the 2016 America’s Health Rankings, an annual state-by-state assessment provided by the American Public Health Association. In addition, more than 11 percent of adult Texans have diabetes. With a census-estimated 2014 population of about 2.3 million, this represent more than a quarter of a million adults in Houston alone who have diabetes.
What is a bit shocking, however, is that this expansion of diabetes is happening right in the midst of some of the best academic and research health institutions in the country. Texas is home to MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, UT Health Science Center, Memorial Hermann Hospital, The Methodist Hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital, and University of Houston College of Pharmacy.
On the other hand, the fact is that Texas is not very different than other states in America. We have become a nation of diabetics! One in 4 adults over 65 in the US is already diabetic and 1 in 3 over age 20 is prediabetic. By 2050, one-third of all Americans could be diabetic!!!
So why is this $2 million research grant not such good news?
Houston, We have a Problem
The Third Ward, one of the six historic wards of Houston, is a predominantly African American community of over 13,000 people as of 2011. The program envisioned in this grant is to take education and treatment out into the Third Ward by 1) establishing a community advisory group, 2) conducting health fairs at different locations, 3) offering lessons on how to live and eat healthier, and 4) screening to detect susceptible individuals early. The objectives are to treat those who already have and to prevent others from getting it, according to Ezemenari Obasi, director of the HEALTH institute. (The name of this institute is an acronym for Helping Everyone Achieve a Lifetime of Health.)
My answer is: it depends on what it is educating people about, and if it has any effect. And if you look at the rising epidemic of diabetes, it appears that such education programs are failing.
Currently, the US is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on treating diabetic patients with medications and insulin injections, both of which may remove sugar from the blood but not from the body where it can remain in other tissues and lead to serious health complications including blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, amputation, and more. (And in men it can cause impotence!).
As with any chronic medical condition, true savings can only be achieved through prevention. However, without knowing the cause of diabetes, one can’t prevent the problem.
Experts have established a connection between weight gain, obesity, and diabetes. Although it is widely accepted that weight gain triggers “insulin resistance” which leads to high blood sugar and diabetes, the fact remains that this theory has never been validated. There has not been a scientifically logical explanation of how only three types of cells in the body (muscle, liver and fat) out of 200 types of cells develop insulin resistance, or what the mechanism is that enables a cell to ignore signals generated after insulin binds to a receptor on the cell. Nor has there been a test to measure the actual degree of insulin resistance at any one of the three sites.
Diabetes costs the American taxpayers about $174 billion per year, mostly paid on behalf of patients who receive healthcare through Medicare and Medicaid. Looking into the future, taxpayers will be forced to spend even more for this rapidly growing diabetic population, leaving fewer dollars available for other health care expenditures.
I have been researching diabetes for twenty years, and I disagree with the theory of insulin resistance being the causative factor of type 2 diabetes. My explanation is rather that the overconsumption of grains and grain products causes a normal body metabolism to change, leaving glucose in the bloodstream. The significance of this is critical – if you avoid eating grains as much as possible, you can prevent diabetes from happening or even reverse it if you have already been diagnosed as having diabetes.
Without acknowledging this fact and taking action to educate people to avoid the consumption of grains and grain products, I am afraid that spending $2 million will not accomplish the goal of reducing the epidemic of diabetes.
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