Suls. “You can at least get in there and try to fix that. It’s not so
easy to fix people’s attitudes and feelings.”
At the briefing, sponsored by the Coalition for Health
Funding, a group of 72 nonprofit organizations including APA,
Suls shared his research showing how floods, tornados, terrorist
attacks and other disasters cause many people to feel fatalistic,
pessimistic and depressed. This is especially true of people
who are already vulnerable, such as poor and elderly people,
as well as those who live in rural areas and can’t reach service
providers, Suls said. Most public health departments don’t
have the funding or staff to conduct mental health outreach,
interventions and assessments, and so vulnerable people often
turn to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes to cope, he added.
“You need programs to make sure that people don’t use the
bad, unhealthy approaches to cope with their situation, but we
don’t have the resources for that,” Suls said.
Speaker Clayton Williams, who oversees Louisiana’s Office of
Public Health, echoed Suls’s concerns.
“Sustaining and enhancing investments in public health
is not only smart because ... it prevents more costly and more
severe problem down the road, but because they translate into
investments in a community’s ability to respond and recover
from a disaster,” Williams said.
n APA presses for more funding for diabetes
prevention and treatment
Diabetes costs the U.S. health-care system $174 billion a year,
making it a critical time to expand research on treatment
and prevention, said psychologist Rena R. Wing, PhD, at a
congressional briefing on the link between obesity and diabetes.
Twenty-six million American children and adults have
diabetes and 79 million have pre-diabetes — elevated blood
glucose levels — which also puts them at risk for developing
heart disease and stroke.
“It’s critical that we do everything we can to maintain
adequate funding for basic, clinical and translational research
on these issues,” said Wing, of the Warren Alpert Medical
School of Brown University. “It’s particularly important to
support the next generation of researchers so they can continue
the process of discovery and implementation. You don’t want to
have an intergenerational gap.”
At the Sept. 15 briefing, sponsored by the Ad Hoc Group
for Medical Research and co-sponsored by several of its
members including APA, the American Diabetes Association
Dr. Rena R. Wing explained how the Diabetes Prevention
Program is almost twice as effective as a commonly used drug.
and a dozen other nonprofit groups, Wing reviewed findings
from the Diabetes Prevention Program study funded by the
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease
(NIDDK). Wing and fellow researchers randomly assigned
more than 3,000 participants with pre-diabetes to one of three
conditions: moderate exercise paired with calorie reduction
and healthy eating; taking metformin, a drug used to reduce the
blood sugar level of individuals with Type- 2 diabetes; or taking
placebo. They followed the group over three years and found
that metformin reduced people’s risk for developing diabetes
by 31 percent, but the lifestyle intervention of exercise and diet
reduced people’s risk by 58 percent.
Now, the institute is disseminating her exercise and weight
loss intervention across the country, said NIDDK Director
Griffin P. Rodgers, MD, who also spoke at the briefing. “We have
developed education efforts based upon this and are trying to
translate these clinical studies into the community settings,” he
said. “We are using the YMCA because over 60 percent of the
American population lives within a six-mile radius of one.”
Fellow speaker Anastasia Albanese-O’Neill, a nurse whose
9-year-old daughter, Cassidy, has Type- 1 diabetes, urged
lawmakers to boost support for the NIDDK, describing how her
daughter’s insulin pump — developed by institute researchers
— has dramatically reduced the number of finger pricks and
insulin shots that would otherwise disrupt her daughter’s life.
“She’s a happy kid, she is a terrific student and an all-star
volleyball player,” she said. “Diabetes doesn’t define her, and
that’s because of research.”