November is American Diabetes Month and is a time to promote awareness of diabetes management. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar, preventing it from being turned into energy. With type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn't produce enough insulin, or it is resistant to insulin.
In 2018, 34.2 million Americans, or 10.5% of the population, were diagnosed with diabetes and 1.5 million Americans continue to be diagnosed with it every year. If the current trend continues, 1 in 3 Americans will develop diabetes at some point in their lifetime.
Managing diabetes takes a concerted effort day in and day out, regardless of whether or not an individual is at home or at work. Beyond co-funding medical expenses or providing health insurance benefits, many employers will experience strain from the indirect costs of diabetes such as absenteeism, disability or early retirement. In 2017, the financial impact to businesses with employees diagnosed with diabetes was almost 90 billion dollars with 3.3 billion dollars lost due to increased absenteeism alone.
How to keep your employees healthy
Promote diagnostic testing
The first step to treating diabetes is knowing if you're diabetic. A simple A1C blood test can reveal the average blood sugar level of an employee over the past 3 months. The results of the blood test can indicate if an employee currently has untreated diabetes or if they are in prediabetic range. The hemoglobin A1C blood test can be included in pre-employment and periodic testing to identify any changes over time.
Perform risk assessments
Each individual will manage their day to day lives with diabetes differently. However, certain types of work may negatively affect their condition. Risk assessments should be individualized for each employee and their position. Does their position include tasks that are dangerous if they experience a low blood sugar? Shift work, for example, has been shown to be associated with more frequent uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Certain work conditions such as driving or working alone need to be taken into consideration so they can be performed safely as well.
Encourage lifestyle changes
The CDC recommends participation in diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) services to prevent diabetic complications such as eye disease, kidney disease, and nerve diseases. DSMES helps people with diabetes effectively manage their blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol and get preventive care. Simple lifestyle changes, including increased education, diet and exercise are all encouraged to help maintain, and even prevent diabetes.
Facilitate management during work hours
Reasonable accommodations should be made for employees with diabetes. Simple solutions can go a long way such as, providing extra time during breaks to check their blood sugar levels, a private and clean environment to administer their insulin, healthy options if vending machines or break rooms are present and regular breaks to allow them to monitor their blood sugar and eating habits.
Diabetes can be costly for you and your employees. Helping your employees prevent and manage diabetes not only can help them be healthier, present, and more productive, it can lower health care costs for them and for your business.
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Boyle JP, Thompson TJ, Gregg EW, et al. Projection of the year 2050 burden of diabetes in the US adult population: dynamic modeling of incidence, mortality, and prediabetes prevalence. Popul Health Metr. 2010;8:29.
“Cost-Effectiveness of Diabetes Interventions.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 May 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/programs-impact/pop/diabetes.htm.
Manodpitipong, Areesa, et al. “Night-Shift Work Is Associated with Poorer Glycaemic Control in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.” Journal of Sleep Research, vol. 26, no. 6, 2017, pp. 764–772., https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12554.
Nobel, Jeremy, et al. “Moving the Needle on Diabetes: The Employer ... - Nebgh.” Northeast Business Group on Health, Feb. 2015, https://www.nebgh.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Diabetes-v6.pdf.
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