Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and one of the most rapidly increasing chronic illnesses worldwide. More than 29 million Americans (9.3%) have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (26 million in 2010) and another 1 in 4 (27.8%) are undiagnosed and don’t know they have it.  An additional 86 million adults, more than 1 in 3, have prediabetes and 15-30% of them will develop tyep 2 diabetes within 5 years if they do not take steps to manage their weight and participate in regular physical activity.

Diabetes is associated with heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, lower-limb amputation and premature death. In 2012, diabetes cost the U.S. $245 billion in direct and indirect costs (176 billion in direct medical costs and 69 billion in indirect costs associated with disability, work loss and premature death). In the workplace, diabetes affects employers by reducing employment and productivity levels and contributing to higher healthcare costs and absenteeism. Poorly controlled diabetes and presence of chronic disease can also lead to increased risk for accidents and occupational injury.

The good news is that diabetes can be prevented, and in some cases, even reversed. Goals of established workplace wellness programs such as guidance in healthy eating, weight management, promotion of regular physical activity and adherence to medication management can all help to manage diabetes. A two-year study of a workplace Diabetes Prevention Program (Aldana et al, 2006) suggests worksites with existing health promotion programs and health care staff can effectively deliver a diabetes prevention program and see positive long-term impacts on employee health.

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