It’s easy to default to mental images of Hollywood and trendy vegan lifestyles when you think about California. But, the reality is that the golden state is plagued with what some are calling an epidemic - of diabetes. More than half of the state’s adult population is affected by the disease - the majority of cases affecting California’s colored communities and the lower socioeconomic classes.

The statistics are staggering, and unnecessarily. Diabetes is preventable - and spreading awareness and knowledge about how the state’s population can avoid it, especially those who are most at risk, may help to dramatically decrease the number of people who have to suffer at the hand of this chronic illness. The state is investing a small portion of the budget into the implementation of prevention programs , educating at-risk communities on matters of diet, exercise, and minimizing risk factors - a step that is considered a launching point to lessening the diagnosis and progression of diabetes.

Special interest groups aren’t stopping at efforts to educate the public, they’re pushing for legislation that will work to mitigate the crisis - by taxing sugary drinks, a main contributor to the development of diabetes. As you might imagine, this initiative hasn’t been well-received by the powerhouse beverage lobby.

Senator Bill Monning explains, “Investing more now in diabetes prevention and education will save our state billions of dollars down the road.” UCLA conducted a study, resolving that nearly sixty percent of California’s adult population is pre-diabetic or diabetic, a set of diagnoses that is causing the government and insurance agencies a whole lot of billions - over 27 billion, to be precise. Expenses covering medical visits, prescription drug therapies, hospital stays due to complications, and poor management of the condition consume a substantial portion of the state budget.

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Officials intend to increase funding for preventative programs in the coming year in hopes that it will eliminate some of the financial burden that accompanies poor and ineffective treatment of their diabetic population. The programs will place an emphasis on diet and nutrition counseling services for pre-diabetics in an effort to avoid a diagnosis of actual diabetes. This effort should help to mitigate the risk for costly hospital stays as a result of life-threatening diabetic complications.

Type II diabetes is largely preventable through diet modification and physical fitness, but Dean Schillinger, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, says that socioeconomic status continues to be a huge factor in health outcome. He explains that, “If you have to choose between buying a fast-food meal for your family of five for $15 or going to Whole Foods and spending $80 on health food, it’s very rational what people are doing.” They just can’t afford the nutrition necessary for preventing the disease process from occurring.

A major, often overlooked, contributing factor is an overemphasis on treatment instead of prevention. That’s where functional medicine can help. Taking a more proactive approach to achieving better health, as opposed to a reactive approach to a condition spiraled out of control, can slow the progression of, or even reverse, this epidemic.

Read about Type II Diabetes

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