Guest Commentaries

An ounce of prevention dramatically improves health

Timely reminders for National Diabetes Awareness Month
November 17, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.

By Sandhya Manivannan Gelou, MD, Guest Writer

When Ben Franklin penned his famous quote in 1735, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," he wasn't referring to a person's health but rather to fire prevention.

How do we douse the silently smoldering "fire" that Type 2 diabetes has become in the United States? 

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. It's a good time for employers in Whatcom County to consider offering the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) as a covered benefit for their employees. The need to prevent diabetes has never been greater — it is a serious workforce issue and should be integrated into our public health agenda, with our health department at the forefront of awareness and prevention education.

The National DPP is a successful evidence-based curriculum designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is offered in communities throughout the country.

One in three U.S. adults has prediabetes. More than eight in 10 of them don't even know they have it. Prediabetes puts a person at increased risk for Type 2 diabetes which can lead to heart attack, stroke, amputations, blindness and kidney failure.

The good news is, that there are proven ways to reverse prediabetes in most cases or slow its progression to diabetes dramatically.

Diabetes is a serious and common condition that affects individuals, their families, their workplaces and the overburdened U.S. health care system. A 2017 study showed that the total cost of medical care and lost productivity for people diagnosed with diabetes was $327 billion, an increase of 33% over a five-year period.

In its 2021 report, Western Washington University's Center for Economic and Business Research compiled a list of Whatcom County's largest employers. The top seven employers are St. Joseph's Hospital, Lummi Nation, Western, Bellingham Public Schools, BP Cherry Point, the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County.

If all these employers offered Diabetes Prevention as an employee benefit, think of the progress we could make to ensure a healthy, productive workforce, and thriving communities.

In spite of medical advances and prevention efforts, diabetes presents a major health crisis in terms of prevalence, morbidity and costs. By 2030, experts forecast that 107,713,000 people in the United States will have prediabetes; 41,733,000 will be diagnosed with diabetes; 13,180,000 will have undiagnosed diabetes.

Those numbers are staggering. But, that's why Franklin's "ounce of prevention" is wise advice. It is important to enhance education, screening, and support efforts at the local, state and federal levels to identify people with prediabetes, and to intervene to help them prevent or delay the progression to Type 2 diabetes in the first place.

If Ben Franklin were alive today, I think he would advise those employers listed above to offer their employees and covered family members access to diabetes prevention in their benefits package. Franklin would probably also advise employees to encourage their employers to cover wellness programs because one long-term impact is such measures control health care costs.

For readers who are prediabetic, I encourage you to sign up for the YMCA's diabetes prevention program. Contact Tara Marshall for information on the next session at or Kate Foster, diabetes prevention coordinator at the Mount Baker Foundation,

The Mount Baker Foundation offers scholarships for the diabetes prevention program for those requiring assistance with the fee. 

The writer is a diabetologist and family medicine physician in private practice in Bellingham. She is actively involved in community health outreach, and volunteers for the Mount Baker Foundation, a nonprofit organization. 

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