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Fight complacency, fight diabetes

There’s a tendency in our society when health issues become commonplace for a dangerous complacency to set in. Such is the case with diabetes.

Diabetes is a well-known epidemic facing the United States (and many other countries). The disease has become so well-known and so commonplace, in fact, that I fear our country is beginning to accept diabetes as an inevitable part of our society. It’s not. We can fight it. Diabetes is too dangerous to too many people with cost implications too catastrophic to allow complacency to set in.

One in three American adults is pre-diabetic and 90 percent of them don’t even know it. This disease is a leading driver of heart attacks, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, amputations, Alzheimer’s and dozens of other very serious health conditions. It’s almost easier to name health complications that aren’t driven by or at least exacerbated by diabetes.

So how do we avoid complacency? We accept that this is a long-term war and we fight it on every front possible: in our doctors’ offices, but also in our homes, our schools, our communities, our businesses and everywhere we can gain an ear, change a mind and save a life. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and a perfect time to renew your personal and organizational commitment to fighting diabetes in your sphere of influence.

In our homes, we should be aware and alert for diabetes warning signs: frequent urination, excessive thirst, unexplained hunger, fatigue, slow-healing cuts and others. We can also work to eat healthier, exercise more and improve other lifestyle habits that can prevent Type 2 diabetes. We can get our kids off their smartphones and on their bikes (with helmets).

In our communities, we can get involved. Volunteer for diabetes awareness, education and fund-raising events. Support programs that get people moving, active and off their couch.

In our schools, we must continue to promote healthy habits for our kids. We have to stop thinking of gym and health class as a break from “real schoolwork.” We need to embrace physical education as a critical educational curriculum and return active play to the priority it once was.

In our businesses, we can continue embracing wellness initiatives that drive and reward healthy habits. Ever more sophisticated wellness programs are emerging, and not just for large employers. Even mom and pop shops can offer meaningful, effective wellness for employees. Health plans now offer powerful tools to help employers engage. At Anthem, for example, we offer turnkey kits to help employers address diabetes and its risk factors, everything from templated challenges to education collateral, mobile apps to condition management coaching.

During National Diabetes Month, I encourage you to make one commitment to battling diabetes over the next year. Just one commitment to fighting this war on your own battlefield, wherever that may be. Then, on World Diabetes Day, November 14, share your commitment with someone else: a family member, a coworker, your physician, anyone that helps you make it real and accountable. You’re not alone. The American Diabetes Association and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation both have wonderful chapters here in Southeast Wisconsin. Your doctor and health plan are valuable resources as well.

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Nobile is a 20-year veteran of the insurance industry whose experience includes time with Rush Prudential Health Plans, Aetna, and United Healthcare. Prior to joining Anthem, Nobile served as the Director of Sales and Account Management for the Midwest region at UniCare, a health benefits company based in Chicago and owned by Anthem’s parent company and also ran UniCare’s Eastern Region with offices.

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