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Will Grunewald / MEDILL

Gov. Pat Quinn (center) and Dr. Louis Philipson (right) listen as Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the state Department of Health, talks about the importance of early diagnosis of diabetes.

Quinn: Call for more diabetes research, treatment and prevention

by Will Grunewald and Meghan Leach
Nov 14, 2012


Will Grunewald / MEDILL

"I was meant to have this disease so that I can change other people’s lives," said Katie Ervin, 14, speaking about her experience with type 1 diabetes.


Will Grunewald / MEDILL

Francine Rodriguez takes a free diabetes blood test offered outside a press conference raising diabetes awareness. Medical student Shamyl Yahya administers the test.

Diabetes afflicts 800,000 Illinois adults and their medical costs soar 2.3 times higher than those of people without the disease. Gov. Pat Quinn and House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) held a press conference Wednesday to promote diabetes research, treatment and prevention.

“Over $7 billion are spent on both direct and indirect costs associated with the care of diabetes in Illinois,” said Cross.

“Our whole purpose for Medicaid is to make it a wellness system that detects early on the challenges of diabetes and other chronic diseases,” said Quinn, speaking at the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago. “If it’s caught early on, it adds years to their lives and saves the taxpayers millions.”

While early detection of diabetes is a must for staying healthy, a key to early detection and prevention is research, said Dr. Louis Philipson, director of the Kovler Diabetes Center at the University of Chicago.

Research is also focusing on the environmental and hereditary triggers of diabetes to prevent and cure it.

But the federal budget crisis might “cut out the heart of diabetes research and healthcare outreach programs,” Philipson said. “It’s important that we get the word out not only here in Illinois, but across the country that we can’t lose the momentum for diabetes care and research not only in the United States but around the world.”

“We are blessed in the Chicago area to have some of the best facilities and hospitals and researchers in the country,” Cross said. “We want Chicago to continue to be the best in providing care, whether it’s for diabetes, heart or cancer.”

The press conference was held to mark the first Diabetes Awareness Day in Illinois, in conjunction with World Diabetes Day.

“This is the cause of a lifetime,” Quinn said. “It is so important that we work together and bring on of all citizens in Illinois to awareness about the importance of doing everything they can to prevent Type II diabetes.”

Katie Ervin, 14, has dedicated herself to raising diabetes awareness.

“Life as a diabetic hasn’t always been easy, nor do I think it will be in the future, but the way I look at it now is I was meant to have this disease so that I can change other people’s lives,” said Ervin, who has type I diabetes.

Doctors also explained what to do if you suspect you have diabetes.

“The usual warning signs are thirst, urinating all the time, eating a lot and losing weight,” Philipson said. “The symptoms are actually similar in children and adults. The difference often is that in children, it’s explosive—all of the sudden you have a really sick kid. Adults can be sick for five years before they come to medical attention.”

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or is resistant to insulin. The body needs insulin to control blood sugar levels.

In type I diabetes, the body produces too little or no insulin and requires daily injections. In type II diabetes, the body is resistant to insulin, so the body can’t store sugar as energy. Sugar then builds up in the blood stream causing hyperglycemia.

Prevention and early detection are important goals.

“It starts with your home. It starts with parents in terms of exercise, nutrition, quitting tobacco and some of the basic things,” said Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, Director of the Illinois Department of Health. “And it starts with a health home. If you have a health home [where] you’re going in to see a doctor at least once a year, your diabetes will be diagnosed.”