The Diabetes Epidemic in Virginia
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About 1 in 7 adults in Virginia have diabetes, and 1 in 3 who have it don’t know it.
Diabetes is increasing at epidemic proportions in Virginia. In 2010, over half a million (531,366) adults in Virginia were estimated to have diagnosed diabetes. That amounts to 8.7% of the total state population—a 45% increase in just 9 years! Another 312,568 adults are estimated to have undiagnosed diabetes. The combined total—843,934 people—represents 13.8% of the adult population of Virginia. Put another way, about 1 in 7 adults in Virginia have diabetes, and one out of every three who have it don’t know it.
In some regions of Virginia, as many as 1 in 5 adults have diabetes.
Diabetes is especially prevalent in rural areas of the state such as Virginia’s southwestern Appalachian counties, south central Virginia, and the Eastern Shore peninsula. In these areas of the state, the rates of diagnosed diabetes fall between 11% and roughly 15%. When undiagnosed cases are added into the mix, the prevalence of diabetes in these areas is between 16% and 20% of the adult population.
There could be more than 600,000 new cases of diabetes in Virginia by the end of 2013—a 73% jump from 2010.
The increases we have seen thus far may be only the beginning. Over 2 million Virginians are estimated to have a condition known as pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes means that a person has blood glucose (“sugar”) levels that are higher than normal, but not yet in the diabetic range. Persons who have pre-diabetes are at a much increased risk of developing diabetes. In one large national study, the Diabetes Prevention Program, 28.9% of persons with pre-diabetes developed diabetes by the end of 3 years. Applying the same incidence rate to the pre-diabetes population in Virginia, we would estimate that there could be about 619,926 new cases of diabetes in Virginia by the end of 2013. This would represent a 73% jump over the number of diagnosed and undiagnosed cases in 2010.
The highest rates of diabetes are among the poor.
Poverty is a key factor that increases the challenge of diabetes in Virginia. The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes is about 16% to 18% among those making less than $25,000 annually. It is 6% to 10% among those with incomes above $35,000. There is a 12% gap in prevalence between those at the low end of the income spectrum and those at the top.
Areas with high rates of poverty correspond to areas with high rates of diabetes in Virginia.
The reality of the association between poverty and diabetes can be seen in the map showing poverty in Virginia counties for 2010. Notice the parallel with the high prevalence rates in Virginia’s southwestern Appalachian counties, south central Virginia, and the Eastern Shore peninsula.
Participation in diabetes education is lowest among the poor.
In addition to being more likely to have diabetes, the poor are less likely to receive even basic diabetes education in how to care for themselves. Good diabetes self-care is essential to keeping blood glucose levels under control and preventing the development of complications such as eye, kidney, and nerve damage. Only about 40% of Virginians making less than $15,000 per year have received diabetes education. This is 20% less than those earning more than $15,000, and 27% less than those earning more than $75,000.