Diabetes is a group of disorders in which blood sugar levels are above normal due to defects in insulin production from pancreatic beta cells, insulin action, or both. Diabetes can lead to severe complications and even death if improperly controlled. Complications include heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and amputation of lower limbs. Approximately 26 million Americans (8.3% of the population) have been diagnosed with diabetes and the prevalence of diabetes is rapidly increasing. In fact, a 2010 report in Population Health Metricspredicts that the diabetes prevalence will triple and that up to one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050. Of note, Alabama has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the nation.
Aside from the human suffering, the health care costs of diabetes are also extremely high. The yearly medical costs of treating diabetes and its complications are estimated to be approximately $176 billion. The yearly indirect costs (disability, work loss, premature death) of diabetes are estimated to be $69 billion.