In commemoration of World Diabetes Day and National Diabetes Month, SUNY Health, the coalition of State University of New York hospitals from across the state, urged New Yorkers to get screened for diabetes and learn more about managing the disease. SUNY hospitals and academic health centers are joining the worldwide effort to raise awareness and are working to improve diabetes care and treatment.
“Across SUNY’s academic health centers and universities, our researchers and doctors are leading medical studies to better understand and manage diabetes,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “This disease continues to be a major epidemic, and SUNY Health is working to prevent more cases and improve treatment for the millions who already have diabetes.”
“Diabetes is a serious disorder, very much underestimated by the population,” said MaryAnn Banerji, MD, director of the Diabetic Treatment Program at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. “The reason diabetes is a serious disease—and an expensive one—is because it has complications. The complications are insidious, and they creep up on you slowly. They can even happen when you have prediabetes.”
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, causing blood glucose levels to rise. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that enables body cells to take up glucose and convert it into energy. Excess glucose in the bloodstream raises the risk for multiple complications, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, blindness, neuropathy and kidney failure.
In New York, the adult population with diabetes has gone up from 6% in 2000 to 10.5% in 2017. Today, nearly 1.7 million New Yorkers have diabetes. Nationwide, diabetes affects approximately 30 million people, or 9.4% of the population.
Another 84 million people have prediabetes, a precursor to diabetes in which blood glucose levels are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. The vast majority of people with prediabetes are unaware they have the condition, which like diabetes, can be diagnosed with a blood glucose test. Eighty percent of people with prediabetes will go on to develop diabetes.
Throughout SUNY, researchers and clinicians are working to improve diabetes care:
SUNY Downstate is in the midst of the National Institutes of Health’s Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes: A Comparative Effectiveness Study (GRADE). The study compares the effectiveness of combinations of commonly prescribed anti-diabetes medicines in maintaining blood glucose levels over time. The findings will help clinicians identify the characteristics that underlie the success, failure and adverse effects of different drug combinations, which will help guide individualized treatment. The study began in 2013, and is expected to conclude in 2022. SUNY Downstate is also in the process of creating a community initiative called BUILD (Brooklyn United to Improve Lifestyle Management in Diabetes), which will result in a diabetes self-management toolkit for Brooklyn residents.
Upstate Medical University’s Joslin Diabetes Center participated in both the TODAY (Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes in Adolescents and Youth) study and its follow up, which were funded by the NIH. The multi-center study looked at the effectiveness of different blood glucose lowering strategies and the development of diabetes-related complications in youths who develop type 2 diabetes. The study found that half the youth who developed type 2 diabetes have a rapidly progressive form of the disease, develop complications sooner, and are less responsive to standard medications. The center is participating in a number of studies investigating the efficacy and safety of new medications and devices to better control type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin.
Researchers at the University at Buffalo are doing a study funded by the NIH that gauges the effectiveness of the Healthy Habits Behavioral Program. The program, which was developed by Leonard H. Epstein, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and director of UB’s Behavioral Medicine Lab, helps participants develop healthier eating and exercise habits in order to lose weight and prevent diabetes. In previous studies, the program resulted in participants losing an average of 20 pounds over six months.
Diabetes research is also taking place on other SUNY campuses. At Binghamton University for instance, researchers are developing mechanisms to support pancreatic islet transplants that secrete insulin, while scientists at the University at Albany are exploring the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
For more information, visit www.suny.edu.