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WeCook and other local programs work with early child-care centers and Lincoln Community Learning Centers’ after-school programming to introduce kids to fresh local produce.
The good news is type 2 diabetes is preventable and manageable. But diabetes is a growing problem, and here’s why awareness of diabetes is important. Check out the following eye-opening facts about diabetes from the American Diabetes Association, Harvard School of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
• In the U.S., about 37.3 million people – or 11.3% of the U.S. population – had diabetes in 2019. Of those, 28.7 million have been diagnosed, but 8.5 million aren’t aware they have it yet.
• Nebraska’s most recent statistics report 145,100 cases of diabetes.
• Diabetes was the eighth leading cause of death in both the U.S. and Nebraska in 2020.
• In the U.S., 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. Nebraska reports 10,800 news cases per year.
• Adults 50 or older with diabetes die 4.6 years earlier, develop disability 6 to 7 years earlier, and spend about 1 to 2 more years in a disabled state than adults without diabetes.
• For Americans age 65 and older, 29.2% or 15.9 million seniors have diabetes, and 26.4 million people age 65 or older (48.8%) have prediabetes.
• In 2019, 96 million Americans age 18 and older had prediabetes.
• About 283,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes.
In 2017, the total estimated cost of diagnosed cases of diabetes in the U.S. was $327 billion including direct medical costs and reduced productivity. If the spread of type 2 diabetes continues at its present rate, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the United States will increase to about 48 million in 2050. Recognizing the danger, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2030 initiative focuses on reducing diabetes cases, complications and deaths.
Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood sugar. Our cells depend on a single simple sugar, glucose, for most of their energy needs. When a person has diabetes, the body either does not make enough insulin (type 1) or is unable to properly use insulin (type 2). Insulin regulates the blood sugar in the body to keep it at proper levels.
People with diabetes can develop other conditions (like high blood pressure and high cholesterol) that can lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, amputations of the legs and feet, and even early death. Diabetes is also associated with increased risk of a number of types of cancer. High blood sugar increases the chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Someone with prediabetes is at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Without lifestyle changes to improve their health, 15% to 30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years. But, the good news is that lifestyle changes like eating healthier food, avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, and exercising can delay the development of type 2 diabetes for decades.
While Type 1 diabetes is not preventable at this point, it is manageable with medical intervention and a lifestyle regimen. Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes and, in fact, is largely preventable by taking several simple steps: keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet, avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, and not smoking.
Four dietary changes can have a big impact on the risk of Type 2 diabetes: 1) choosing whole grains and whole grain products over refined grains and other highly processed carbohydrates; 2) skipping the sugary drinks and choosing water, coffee or tea instead; 3) choosing healthy fats; and 4) limiting red meat, avoiding processed meat and choosing nuts, beans, whole grains, poultry or fish instead.
Two of the major risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes are obesity and lack of exercise. With a growing childhood obesity epidemic, made worse by the pandemic, starting as early as possible to build good nutrition and fitness habits is key. Good nutrition starts earliest with breastfeeding. Numerous studies have shown that breastfed babies are healthier and less likely to be obese. Breastfeeding is best, but it’s not always easy. Several local organizations provide great pre- and postnatal support including MilkWorks, the Lincoln-Lancaster County WIC Program, Malone Center, El Centro de las Americas, the Asian Community Center, as well as many family medicine and pediatric offices.
Lower-income individuals and families, where racial minorities are over-represented, are more likely to struggle with obesity from lack of access and affordability of healthier foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Several local organizations are working to increase access and help build healthier eating and fitness habits, beginning with toddlers and preschoolers. To name just a few: Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln, through its Harvest of the Month, WeCook and SPARK programs, work with early child-care centers and Lincoln Community Centers’ after-school programming introducing kids to fresh local produce, teaching them to make healthy snacks and meals, and combining it with fitness activities. Lincoln Public Schools’ Sustainability program supports indoor and outdoor vegetable gardens at several LPS schools, many in collaboration with Community Crops.
With the support of the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln, Community Action Partnership (CAP) collaborates with the Lincoln Food Bank to increase access to healthy food in Lincoln, particularly for children living in the city’s highest-need neighborhoods, with the Kinder Bites program. Additionally, CAP’s FEAST program helps families learn about good nutrition, creating healthy meals and food budgeting. In partnership with local farmers and cultural markets, Nebraska Extension’s Double Up Food Bucks program works to remove financial barriers and improve the diet quality and health of Nebraska Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.
Several support resources and organizations are working to help patients manage diabetes. Both Madonna ProActive and the city’s Aging Partners periodically offer Living Well with Diabetes programs to help adults with diabetes, their family members and friends understand how to best manage their illness. Aging Partners’ fitness center caters to the needs of seniors to help them be more physically active. Madonna will begin offering a diabetes prevention program for those diagnosed with prediabetes in January. Bryan Health offers a diabetes self-management education program open to the public, and Bluestem offers free nutrition and diabetes education for patients. Nebraska Urban Indian Medical Center and the Asian Community Center offer diabetes education and self-management programs for the communities they serve. Registered dietitians at HyVee, Madonna and Bryan LifePoint Medical Nutrition offer nutrition counseling for diabetics.
Nebraska’s seven Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are groups of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers who come together voluntarily to provide coordinated high-quality care to their Medicare patients. The ACOs incorporate outreach and education into patient care to improve patient outcomes in several areas including diabetes management, using shared quality measurements to gauge success. All seven Nebraska-based ACOs performed well, with performance on most quality measures higher than national averages.
The ALIGN coalition is a joint project of Partnership for a Healthy Nebraska and the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, which has engaged insurers as well as health care organizations (including ACOS, hospitals and safety net providers) to adopt a core set of 11 clinical quality measures statewide to improve patient outcomes in areas like diabetes management, blood pressure control and cancer screening.
Diabetes is incurable, but proper management can improve and extend life. The American Diabetes Organization encourages people with diabetes and their loved ones to learn as much as possible about the latest medical therapies and approaches, as well as healthy lifestyle choices. But preventing type 2 diabetes is within our power by taking several simple steps: keeping weight under control, exercising more, eating a healthy diet, avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, and not smoking.
Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln ( and LNKTV Health ( bring you Health and the City, a monthly column that examines relevant community health issues and spotlights local organizations that impact community wellness. Direct questions or comments to

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WeCook and other local programs work with early child-care centers and Lincoln Community Learning Centers’ after-school programming to introduce kids to fresh local produce.
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