Almost One-Third of Hospital Patients in California Have Diabetes, Study Says

by David Gorn

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UC researchers today are releasing a study revealing the high cost of diabetes to California's health care system.

The joint study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the not-for-profit California Center for Public Health Advocacy, based in Davis, has some compelling findings:

  • Among hospitalized patients ages 35 or older, 31% had diabetes;
  • Hospitalizations of diabetics cost nearly $2,200 more per patient than hospitalizations of non-diabetics;
  • Extra costs, when totted up, hit $1.6 billion a year;
  • The rate of diabetes was higher among some minority groups, with African-American and Asian-American patients at 39% and Latino patients at 43%.

"The big picture is, diabetes is having an enormous effect on our health care system," said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy in Davis.

"We know diabetes rates are skyrocketing … and yet we've created a world we're living in where it's a natural consequence," Goldstein said.

High sugar consumption and lack of exercise lead to diabetes, Goldstein said. It's a chronic disease that affects multiple systems, leading to a variety of ailments ranging from kidney problems to nerve damage.

"Because it affects every body system, that increases the cost and challenges of care," Goldstein said.

Goldstein wants the Legislature to pass SB 1000 by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), which would put a warning label on sweetened beverages. The bill is being held in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

"There are two things that would be immediate policy solutions," Goldstein said. "First is we need to reduce consumption of sugar and in particular liquid sugar." And the second step is to require health insurance to cover early screening and education programs. We need to help people turn around pre-diabetes so it doesn't turn into diabetes."

The ray of hope in the diabetes epidemic is that it's preventable, for the most part, Goldstein said. If it's not prevented, then the high cost of diabetes will only get higher, he said.

"The entire health care system is built so much around treatment," he said. "What this study shows is that diabetes is now having a major impact on the health care system and on health care costs. If we don't turn this around, we're going to be engulfed in a tsunami of diabetes."

Judith Gould
And yet no recognition of the underutilization of registered dietitian nutritionists in California and apparently no recommendations in the report to routinely include RDNs in the care of persons with Type 1 and 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Judith A. Gould. MA, RDN, MS

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