Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, United States Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson and Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs Clarice Joynes announced a new Federal partnership to improve the health and wellness of U.S. veterans and their families with an emphasis on diabetes. “HealthierUS Veterans” will be launched in New York and across the nation to educate veterans about obesity and nutrition and help reduce the elevated level of diabetes among retired members of the armed services. The Mayor announced in his State of the City address that New York City will reduce complications caused by diabetes by 20% by 2008 and last week, the Mayor and Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden announced an innovative program to contact and educate new mothers about the risks of gestational diabetes.
“Diabetes is one of the great threats to New York’s public health,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Unfortunately, the brave men and women who served in our armed forces are more susceptible to, and have higher rates of, diabetes than the general population. I’m proud to partner with Secretary Nicholson and VA on this education program to reach out to our veterans and give them the information they need to protect themselves, their families and communities from this dreaded disease. New York City is fully committed to the fight against diabetes and this initiative is another weapon in our arsenal to reduce diabetes and its complications. New York will reduce complications causes by diabetes by 20% by 2008. ”
“More than 70% of veterans receiving medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs are overweight or obese. 20% of veterans receiving medical care from VA have diabetes,” said Secretary Nicholson. “That compares to 7% of the people nationwide. We are looking forward to working with the Mayor to increase awareness of this serious health issue and promote our good health and nutrition program to our veterans in New York.”
“Service members returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the veterans of New York City, depend on the care given by VA,” said Director Joynes. “There are many health issues in the veteran community. Veterans Affair study on the high rate of diabetes in the veterans’ community shed light on a major health issue.
Eligible veterans should report to their local VA hospital, or VA clinic, and get screened.”
“Diabetes is epidemic in New York City and, along with obesity, is getting worse quickly,” said Commissioner Frieden. “One of the most important steps to improving diabetes management and control - in addition to eating better and getting regular physical activity - is to better monitor diabetes. The Veteran's Administration served as one model for our recently established diabetes registry, and we welcome their leadership in improving care for people with diabetes.”
Veterans are more likely than the general population to have diabetes, one of the major complications associated with being overweight. According to the American Diabetes Association, 7% of the U.S. population has diabetes, and the rate increases with age. Among veterans receiving VA health care, who are on average older than the general population, the rate is 20%. Overweight patients receiving VA health care may participate in weight loss programs tailored to their needs. They may also receive pedometers, diet advisories and “prescriptions” suggesting how much to walk -- or, in the case of wheelchair users, how much more to roll.
There are more than 312,000 veterans living in New York City and another 8,000
New Yorkers are on active duty in the reserves or in the National Guard. More than half a million New Yorkers have diabetes and another 250,000 are afflicted by the disease and are not aware of it. In addition to the gestational diabetes initiative announced last week, the City is undertaking the nation’s first city-based diabetes registry in communities with high rates of the disease.