The effects of diabetes on American employers reach far beyond actual healthcare costs. Productivity also suffers when diabetes is not diagnosed and managed well. Preventing diabetes is preferable to treating the illness, and HR professionals are here to support their teams.
According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in ten Americans has chronic diabetes. This percentage equals more than 37 million Americans. The numbers include approximately 8.5 million sufferers who remain undiagnosed.
In addition, 38% of the adult U.S. population suffers from prediabetes. That is a total of 96 million adults whose blood sugar values have exceeded the normal range but have not yet reached a level high enough to warrant a diagnosis of type-2 diabetes.
While the human cost of diabetes increases, so is the economic damage suffered by businesses nationwide. The American Diabetes Association believes that diagnosed diabetes costs employers $327 billion annually. This figure comprises $90 billion in lost productivity and $237 billion in direct medical costs. These numbers do not yet include any health problems suffered by undiagnosed diabetics.
Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and develops quickly, usually during childhood or early adulthood. In both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, a person’s ability to break down sugars from their food and turn those sugars into energy to feed their cells is compromised. Those affected no longer produce insulin, the hormone responsible for breaking down sugars.
While the pancreas of type 2 diabetics still produces insulin, their bodies have become less effective at using the hormone. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes develops later and more slowly. This type of illness is linked to lifestyle factors. Obesity, an unhealthy diet, and a sedentary lifestyle are all known contributors.
If either type is undiagnosed or left untreated, raised blood sugar levels to cause heart disease and organ damage over time. Diabetes can lead to severe complications, including amputation and blindness.
Most American employers and HR professionals have focused on navigating the coronavirus pandemic’s challenges over the past two years. However, neglecting the risk of diabetes would be a costly mistake.
Type 2 diabetes is preventable. Through timely intervention, the progression of prediabetes can be halted and even reversed. Such intervention includes changes in diet and lifestyle, for example. Most importantly, the process starts with knowing who is at risk.
Before considering individual employees, the process starts with a free risk assessment that considers your entire workforce. Based on age and ethnicity, the TrueCare™ team can estimate what percentage of your employees may be at risk.
The result gives HR professionals the knowledge they need to understand how big the issue may be for their company.
Considering the number of prediabetics, one in three of your employees may be developing diabetes. Identifying those at risk can save them from developing a chronic illness that is known to lead to life-long complications. The risk assessment is only the beginning of a process facilitating early recognition and diagnosis of diabetes.
Managing type 2 diabetes and halting or reversing prediabetes sometimes requires drastic lifestyle changes. Those adjustments will be easier to cope with by having the support of others, and this is where employers and HR teams can have a considerable impact.
One example is encouraging a healthier diet at work. Perhaps your organization has a cafeteria or vending machines for your team? Consider offering healthier choices through these. Team members at risk for diabetes will find it easier to reach for healthy options if there are several choices. At the same time, even those who are not at risk may opt for better alternatives.
As a result, you are not only supporting those most at risk, but you are changing the culture of your entire organization. This small change can translate into a potentially massive opportunity for the whole workforce.
Another example is encouraging physical activity. If much of your team is office-based and desk-bound, it is too easy for employees to spend the entire day without moving. Motivating people to take active breaks together fosters stronger working relationships and a higher level of activity. Your organization will benefit from a happier, healthier, more productive workforce.
HR professionals do not need to develop diabetes prevention programs on their own. The CDC has a comprehensive program, and the diabetes screening platform from TrueCare™ is an ideal tool to help you measure and minimize risk.
TrueCare™ is a nationwide Health & Wellness platform for families and businesses providing end-to-end solutions for COVID-19 testing, screening, vaccination, home care, and corporate well-being services.