On a weekend when numerous protests about the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer were scheduled, hundreds of St. Louisans of all races, ages and abilities came together to participate in the Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes.
Twenty-nine million people in the United States have diabetes. Its prevalence is nearly twice as high among African Americans over the age of 20, and for those over 65 of any race, the prevalence is over 25% according to the CDC.
I know the statics well because Carroll & Company specializes in health communication but the visual image of the number, and diversity of people impacted by diabetes was both striking and moving. From the very young to the very old and all levels of abilities, everyone was walking. Some of the most inspiring were the senior citizens from Delmar Gardens retirement community that warmed up the walkers.
What many people don’t know is that obesity-not sugar- is a key risk factor for developing type II diabetes. Because of the national obesity epidemic, 35% of Americans over 20 years old have prediabetes putting them at high risk of developing the disease. The economic cost for treating diabetes is more than $270 billion dollars a year. A price we all pay, whether we have the disease or just know someone that does.
To reduce the instance of diabetes, we have to turnaround the obesity rate. But that means changing eating behaviors and that, as anyone whose battled their weight knows, is not easy. You need an environment at home and in the community with easy access to affordable, healthy food choices and safe and secure places to get out and get active. It also requires patience, moral support and a commitment from all of us. A commitment to take the first Step. Just like the walkers in this weekend’s diabetes awareness walk.