Federal Agencies Team Up with Business to Ease the Burden of Diabetes at Work
The federal government and private industry have teamed up to offer a new approach to dealing with the burgeoning diabetes epidemic that threatens our nation's health as well as our productivity.
Nearly 17 million people have diabetes and the number is increasing. On average, workers with diabetes miss about 8.3 days of work per year compared with 1.7 missed days by people without diabetes. This accounts for about 14 million disability days a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Today, the Department of Health and Human Services launched a new Web site devoted entirely to easing the burden of diabetes in the workplace: http://www.diabetesatwork.org. The new Web site links top-level managers, occupational health providers, benefits and human resource managers, and employees to a resource kit offering the latest trends in disease management, work site wellness strategies, and a host of other interactive tools for on-the-job diabetes management.
"Diabetes care goes far beyond what happens during a doctor's office visit, so it makes good business sense for employers to ensure that the workplace environment provides opportunities for diabetes care support and information about control and prevention," said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "For full-time workers who spend most of their waking hours at work, this new approach offers hope for improved management of their disease."
The diabetes-at-work project was developed by the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) in collaboration with private-sector partners in business and managed care. In order to reach a wide business audience, the Web site is being hosted by the Washington Business Group on Health (WBGH) http://www.wbgh.org.
The setting for today's launch is a workshop hosted by NDEP to give health and business managers an opportunity to sample the resource kit and get an inside look at some successful corporate wellness strategies already in place. This event kicks off a year-long series of similar workshops NDEP will conduct at work sites throughout the nation.
Some key features of the resource kit include a worksheet to enable companies to assess their need for diabetes education and management at their work sites, guidance on choosing a health care plan that covers diabetes care needs, and more than 30 lesson plans and fact sheets that promote diabetes education management among employees. All materials can be downloaded, e-mailed, and incorporated into electronic presentations.
According to recent CDC studies, diabetes is now affecting people at younger ages during their most productive years. "Diabetes affects people from all walks of life, and employers can no longer afford to ignore its impact," said CDC Director Dr. Julie L. Gerberding. "Regardless of size, companies should be aware that the growing diabetes epidemic affects people in all sectors of the work force at any time and any place."
Diabetes is both a health and economic burden, costing the nation $98 billion a year - $44 billion in direct medical costs and $54 billion in disability, work losses and premature mortality. According to the WBGH, costs could be better controlled through interventions performed outside the medical system and as a part of people's daily lives. New research shows that lifestyle changes can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes among high-risk adults.
The new Web site http://www.diabetesatwork.com includes practical tools for promoting increased physical activity and weight loss - both of which are known to reduce the risk for diabetes. These tools also can be used by large and small businesses to establish worksite wellness programs to help employees better control their diabetes and minimize the risk of complications.
"Hard-working men and women do not want diabetes to prevent them from performing their best on the job and in all aspects of their lives," said Dr. Frank Vinicor, director of CDC's diabetes program. "Healthy lifestyle choices have to be a 24-hour-a-day focus for people with diabetes, and employers are realizing the importance of protecting their most important asset - their human resources."
NDEP, a joint initiative of CDC and the National Institutes of Health, teamed up with several organizations, including WBGH, the American Association of Health Plans, and the National Business Coalition on Health, to research and compile the information and resources available on the diabetes-at-work Web site.
For more information on diabetes, visit the following Web sites: http://www.cdc.gov/team-ndep; http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes; and http://www.niddk.nih.gov or call toll free: 800-438-5383 and 877-232-3422.
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CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.