Over a 15-year time period, Oklahoma saw the largest increase in its diabetes rate when compared to any other state in the nation, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released Thursday.
In 2010, 10 percent of adult Oklahoma residents were diabetic, compared with 3 percent in 1995, the report said.
An Oklahoma diabetes expert said Thursday that while the state has a big problem with this disease, the 15-year-old estimates may have been too low, making the increase look too big.
“We are terribly concerned about diabetes in Oklahoma, but the headlines are misrepresenting the truth if you actually look at the data,” said Dr. Kenneth Copeland, a director at the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center.
In the 1990s, when Oklahoma's diabetes rate was reported to be 3 percent, Oklahoma had one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, Copeland said. Being that obesity is directly related to developing Type 2 diabetes, the numbers didn't add up, Copeland said.
However, Oklahoma does have a growing diabetes problem.
“It is an increasing problem, it's a terrible problem and it is absolutely devastating to our economy, and we have to do something about it,” Copeland said.
Currently, an estimated 296,000 Oklahoma adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation's health data.
The medical cost of diabetes in Oklahoma is estimated to be about $3 billion, according to the state Health Department.
Rate is high
Diabetes is especially high among Oklahoma's minority populations.
About 15 percent of American Indian adults in Oklahoma and about 15 percent of black residents have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the state Health Department.
Copeland said many researchers are studying why minority populations have high rates of diabetes.
Some studies have pointed to the possibility of a genetic predisposition that makes some minorities at risk for obesity, and thus, a higher risk of diabetes. For now, a healthy diet and exercise are thought to be the best ways to prevent diabetes among all groups.
Many American Indian tribes have worked to increase access to diabetes care for their tribe members, said L. Carson Henderson, project coordinator at American Indian Diabetes Prevention Center at the University of Oklahoma.
“The tribes, especially in Oklahoma, are fabulous in the efforts they've made and the inroads they've made in diabetes care and in providing diabetes wellness centers,” Henderson said.
“They've done their part. The tribes are right on it.”