In Hawaii, the percentage of the population that is diagnosed with diabetes is 13%.  A somewhat manageable sounding number, no? Well, there is another 41% that are categorized as pre-diabetic.  Meaning, if these people do not take steps toward managing and controlling this disease, it will turn in to a more serious Type 2. That means an astonishing 50% of our local population is diabetic or pre-diabetic!  Chances are, one of these two people are working for you.

As an Employer, what does this have to do with me?

For starters, diabetes is the second highest cost driver of medical and insurance costs only preceding cancer.  Studies have determined that for someone with managed, controlled diabetes the yearly cost for care is $45,000. As such an employee’s health plan sponsor, this directly impacts your group plan.  This number also does not account for the indirect costs associated with time off, absenteeism, TDI, FMLA and other aspects of chronic conditions that may affect your employee and their productivity.

As an Employer, how can I help my employees manage this condition?

There are many different risk factors that can be associated with developing diabetes.  Some may be genetics (highly prone to Asians, Pacific Islanders, men) however many of the risk factors fall into the  lifestyle category such as nutrition, weight management, physical activity, and compliance for pre-diabetics and diabetics to make subtle changes in their behaviors and prescribed plan of treatment.  Aside from the patient taking the initiative to want to change their risky behaviors and manage their diabetes, employers can be an environmental influence to help lead the patient down the path of behavior change. Swap out the soda machine for a filtered water dispenser, provide fruit and wraps at your next lunch meeting instead of bentos and chips.  Yes, employees may gripe at these unfamiliar changes at first, but if you make your intention clear that you care about them and they are an important aspect to your company, they will come around. Provide opportunities to be active. When appropriate, a standing or walking meeting not only gets you out of the office but it gets the blood flowing. Prop open that dingy stairwell door to encourage employees to take the stairs. There are even exercises that employees can do at their desk.  Any small change is a change in the right direction.

1/3 of adults lack the sufficient health literacy to effectively manage their diabetes.  While not an employers responsibility, here in Hawaii we do imbody a “work ohana” type atmosphere.  By providing a nurturing environment that fosters awareness and education with resources for your employees, it shows them how much you care.  You do not need to re-invent the wheel. There are many resources that are available to employers for your use and distribution. Click on the links below for specific programs and collateral:

National Diabetes Prevention Program

American Diabetes Association    

Department of Health    

HMSA Diabetes 101 Workshop

HMAA Gestational Diabetes Management Program  

UHA Diabetes Management Program  

Kaiser Stop Diabetes Class Schedule

HDS Diabetes and Gum Disease Connection

20 Exercises to Do at Your Desk