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How employers can address diabetes problem

November 21, 2012
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a diabetic tests his blood sugar levelIn recognition of November as National Diabetes Month, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) is providing tools and resources to help employers identify and respond to the impact of diabetes on worker health and productivity.

Diabetes affects more than 24 million Americans. It is the seventh leading cause of death and the leading cause of kidney failure, new blindness in adults, and leg/foot amputations unrelated to injury. It is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. The estimated cost of diabetes in the U.S. in 2007 was $174 billion. Indirect costs — disability, work loss, premature death — were $58 billion. However, employers and employees can take steps to prevent or control this disease which accounts for 15 million lost work days and 120 million work days with reduced performance per year.

“Diabetes is one of the most serious conditions affecting employee health and productivity — but at the same time, using the right tools and strategies, employers can stay ahead of it and promote the healthiest workforce possible through an emphasis on wellness and prevention activities. ACOEM is committed to providing employers with the resources to accomplish this goal.” said Barry Eisenberg, ACOEM executive director.

“While diabetes is all too common, it is treatable, and in the case of Type 2 diabetes, it can be preventable. Given the right tools, employers are capable of reducing the health risks and health costs of diabetes by instituting innovative workplace wellness programs that engage workers to be more proactive about their health,” said Ron Loeppke, MD, MPH, FACOEM. Dr. Loeppke is ACOEM President-elect and Chairman of the Diabetes at Work group, a free on-line resource specifically designed to address the management of diabetes in the workplace as part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Diabetes Education Program. Earlier this year, Dr. Loeppke, with Pam Allweiss, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Diabetes Translation, and Kristina Ernst, Program Consultant, CDC, National Diabetes Prevention Program, conducted a live demonstration of the DiabetesAtWork web site.

To promote National Diabetes Month, ACOEM is making available to members and the general public information on diabetes as well as resources for employers to learn more about diabetes prevention and maintenance programs in the workplace. A cornerstone of this initiative is the Blueprint for Health — a free on-line calculator that estimates the total health-related costs to employers including absenteeism and lost productivity.

Introduced by ACOEM in 2007 in partnership with the HCMS Group and the National Business Coalition on Health, an expanded Blueprint was launched this September. The Blueprint allows employers to enter demographic information on their employee population and receive information that calculates an overall health-related cost model for the employer as well as the impact of six specific chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

The Blueprint serves as the centerpiece of ACOEM’s yearlong chronic disease in the workplace awareness campaign. This informational campaign is the latest in ACOEM’s wide-ranging Healthy Workforce Now (HWN) initiative, which was launched in 2009 to build a healthier workforce and integrate workplace health and wellness more effectively with the nation’s overall health reform efforts. Healthy Workforce Now advances such action items as establishing a new “national culture of health in the workplace,” better access to health care services for workers, a reduction in workplace health disparities, improvements aimed at the workers’ compensation system and a stronger national response to environmental health risks.

To learn more about ACOEM’s campaign, the Blueprint for Health, or the Healthy Workforce Now initiative, visit

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