Did you know that 463 million people worldwide are currently living with diabetes? This number is projected to rise to 700 million by 2045, rapidly increasing in the U.S. and many low-or-middle-income countries.1
Unfortunately, diabetes can be a serious and costly disease. In severe cases or when left unmanaged, diabetes can lead to reduced quality of life, blindness, cardiovascular disease, nerve damage or death. Globally, diabetes-related healthcare expenses rose to $760 billion, accounting for 10% of all healthcare spend for adults.1
Because of the prevalence and economic impact of this disease, diabetes management programs have grown in popularity. They help close gaps in care and empower people to take control of their condition by providing educational resources, health coaching, preventive care, lifestyle interventions and digital tools.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body does not process food for energy properly, thus causing blood sugar levels to remain high. People of any age, ethnicity or background can develop diabetes.2
There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Most people with Type 1 diabetes get diagnosed as children or teens. About 5-10% of people with diabetes have Type 1.2
Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body metabolizes sugar. Although people of any age can develop Type 2 diabetes, it’s most common in middle-aged and older adults. About 90-95% of people with diabetes have this type.2
How Does Diabetes Affect the Workplace?
While a person at any age can develop diabetes, it disproportionately affects people during their prime working years of 40-59. As such, diabetes can exact a heavy toll on individual health, family life and employment.
When people are struggling to manage their diabetes, employers can feel the burden in lost productivity and high healthcare costs. On average, a person with diabetes will have healthcare costs that are 2.3 times higher than someone without diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) also estimates that American businesses suffer $90 billion in lost productivity per year due to diabetes.
The size, scope and severity of diabetes makes it critical to provide diabetes management resources or programs to those living with the disease.
What is Diabetes Management?
Proper diabetes management has a number of benefits. With the right care, someone living with diabetes can:
- Control their symptoms
- Reduce the risk for complications
- Improve their overall health and quality of life
- Save money on healthcare
- Take fewer sick days
Addressing all areas of a person’s health is the best way to approach diabetes management. Below are some of the topics that a diabetes management program should address.
Sticking to a Schedule
Diabetes management is a part of everyday life. Regularly checking blood sugar levels, taking medication as prescribed and sticking to a regular eating schedule may help avoid spikes or drops in blood sugar levels.3
But life isn’t always predictable. Busy days, traveling and uncontrollable circumstances can upend a person’s schedule. Health circumstances or individual needs can also change over time. Diabetes management programs help individuals stick to their prescribed care schedule and learn how to prioritize their health no matter what’s happening in their lives. In addition to digital tools and reminders, regularly working with a health coach that’s experienced in diabetes management can help people stay on track and identify other opportunities for improvement.
Getting and staying active is an important part of diabetes management. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular physical activity can help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk for heart disease or nerve damage, among many other benefits.
Offering diabetes management as part of a comprehensive wellbeing program gives people access to reminders, activities, incentives, motivation and peer support to reach their physical activity goals. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s physical abilities differ. Include alternatives to traditional types of exercises like walking or running to accommodate people’s unique needs.
Nutrition and Diabetes
Maintaining a healthy diet is central to diabetes management. Eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and fiber that’s low in fat and calories can help to control blood glucose levels and reduce the risk for heart disease.3 A person living with diabetes will typically work with their doctor or a nutritionist to develop a healthy eating plan. Diabetes management programs provide additional resources to support people as they learn how to adjust their diets at home and on-the-go.
Anyone living with a chronic condition can benefit from mental health support, but it’s especially important for those living with diabetes. Whether someone was recently diagnosed or has been living with a condition for their entire life, stress or concerns about managing a condition is incredibly common. People living with diabetes are also 2-3 times more likely to have depression and 20% more likely to experience anxiety during their life.3 Peer support, health coaching, medication or therapy are just a few examples of the types of support that can benefit people living with diabetes.
5 Tips for Diabetes Management in the Workplace
Aside from offering diabetes management resources as part of a wellbeing program, employers can support their people in a variety of ways. Help make the workplace more inclusive for people living with diabetes by:
- Offering low-sugar or low-carb alternatives at company meals and in the break room. Donuts, sugar at the coffee station or soda in the vending machine may be off limits for those living with diabetes. If you’re going to provide food or drinks, make sure there are food and beverage options that work for a diabetes diet.
- Reducing stigma with education and communication. Diabetes is incredibly common, but that doesn’t mean everyone feels comfortable talking about it. Foster a supportive work environment and educate managers on the topic.
- Encouraging people to access preventive care. As a general rule, people with diabetes should visit their doctors three-to-four times a year.4 Sometimes people skip doctors’ appointments because they believe they’ll be punished at work for taking time off. Clearly communicate your time off or flexible work policies and make sure people know it’s ok to see their healthcare provider when they need to.
- Educating employees about the flu and pneumonia vaccines. According to the ADA, “people with diabetes are about three times more likely to die from the flu or pneumonia. Yet only one-third of them never get a simple, safe pneumonia shot.”5 Mobile health teams that provide flu and pneumonia vaccines or educational resources can increase the likelihood your people will take this important preventive step for their health.
- Allowing time for diabetes management. The American Disabilities Act allows employees to request reasonable accommodations to manage their diabetes. This could be time to eat a snack, inject insulin or to take a quick walk.