High-Risk U.S. Adults Not Using Diabetes Prevention Programs

Type 2 diabetes, experts agree, is a disease that can be prevented in a great many cases. So it’s unclear why so many people at high risk for diabetes don’t take part in diabetes prevention programs.

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That concern was the subject of a new study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open that aimed at determining the number and proportion of adults in the United States who are referred to and use diabetes preventive services.

Using information from the National Health Interview Survey, a major health survey of American adults, the researchers collected data on 50,912 individuals. None of them had yet been diagnosed with diabetes, but about a quarter had been diagnosed with prediabetes, and one-third were considered at high risk. The average age was 46 and the group had roughly equal numbers of men and women.

The researchers then looked into whether the subjects had received medical advice from health-care professionals. They determined that some three-quarters of those with prediabetes and half of those with other risk factors had received some sort of “advice or referrals to reduce risk.” However, of those who had received advice, the numbers engaging in “risk-reducing activities or programs” showed much lower results — as few as one out of three. In other words, as the researchers put it, “Participation in diabetes prevention programs was exceedingly low.”

If there was a silver lining in the cloud, it was that the study found that patients who had received advice from a health-care professional were more likely to take part in lifestyle-modification programs. Other factors influencing participation were the patient’s awareness of the diabetes risk and adequate insurance coverage. The study concluded that the three “key levers” in improving the use of diabetes prevention services seem to be a sufficient supply of programs, an awareness on the part of patients and “access and referrals by health-care professionals.”

Want to learn more about diabetes prevention programs? Read “The Diabetes Prevention Program.”

Joseph Gustaitis

A freelance writer and editor based in the Chicago area, Gustaitis has a degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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