PITTSBURGH, February 20, 2004 — At a news conference today, Congressman John Murtha announced a $10 million appropriation to the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute to improve access to care and provide a longer and better life for people with diabetes in western Pennsylvania. The interventions developed through this appropriation will subsequently serve as a model for diabetes treatment for the U.S. Air Force.
This appropriation addresses a great and urgent need because in Pennsylvania alone, 1.1 million people (720,500 diagnosed and 379,500 undiagnosed) have diabetes. It is a leading cause of death, with 11,500 Pennsylvanians dying each year. Diabetes also is the leading cause of new blindness, end-stage renal disease and non-traumatic amputations in the state.
The appropriation represents Congressman Murthas interest and support for Focus on Diabetes, an ambitious public health education and awareness campaign initiated in 2003 by the Institute and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and it will significantly expand the scope of the campaign.
We don't often get an opportunity with diseases like the one we have with diabetes, said Congressman Murtha. This disease can actually be prevented in some cases, so we need to educate people about how to do that. We need to treat it effectively because we can save lives that are being lost unnecessarily and because we can eliminate or reduce the suffering linked to diabetes. We can even reverse the ever-mounting costs of medical care and lost productivity resulting from the disease. The opportunity to dramatically improve peoples lives is one we're not going lose.
The major focus of the appropriation will be primary prevention of diabetes through the promotion of healthier lifestyles in high-risk, hard-to-reach populations and areas such as rural communities.
Two other areas of emphasis will be the prevention of diabetes complications, such as retinopathy, and the enhancement of diabetes care in a variety of health care settings including primary care practices, community health services, UPMC hospitals, rural areas and VA hospitals.
The programs and interventions developed through this appropriation will serve as a prototype for primary and secondary prevention of diabetes. All of the projects will be developed to meet the needs of rural, military and veteran communities, said Linda M. Siminerio, Ph.D., executive director of the Institute and assistant professor of medicine, division of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Telemedicine will be used to facilitate access and reach. Self-management education will be incorporated into each of the programs, which programs will be designed to incorporate tracking, monitoring and reporting of patient progress.
We extend our appreciation and thanks to Congressman Murtha for his foresight in recognizing the seriousness of this disease and making this appropriation available to the region, said Jeffrey Romoff, president of UPMC. The University of Pittsburgh and UPMC are in a unique position to increase public awareness of this dangerous and costly disease and to forge a partnership with communities and patients in its prevention and treatment.
Diabetes is at an epidemic level in the United States. This appropriation will enable UPMC to expand its work to prevent diabetes in those at risk and to deliver and promote high quality, comprehensive diabetes care throughout western Pennsylvania and when relevant, to translate this model to the U. S. Air Force, Mr. Romoff added.
The Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) is looking forward to continuing our partnership with UPMC, and expects that the new initiative will significantly enhance our capability to provide comprehensive care to our 130,000 beneficiaries who have Type 2 diabetes. This initiative is a perfect fit with the AFMS's ongoing emphasis on prevention and population health programs, said Lt. Gen. George Peach Taylor, M.D., U.S. Air Force Medical Service.
Within the last decade, research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere has established that people with diabetes can avoid or postpone the development of complications by controlling their blood glucose levels, and that at least some people at high risk for diabetes can avoid or postpone onset of the disease.
These studies demonstrate that diabetes does not have to run rampant. Improving public awareness about diabetes, educating people with diabetes about self-care, and providing excellent primary care for people with diabetes can have a real impact, reducing the incidence and severity of diabetes.