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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

ASES director sounds alarm on diabetes prevalence

A longitudinal study revealed an increase of 4% (from 14% to 18%) from 2016 to 2020 in the number of people with diabetes in Puerto Rico.

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its acronym) director Jorge Galva on Wednesday described as an epidemic the dramatic increase in the prevalence of diabetes in Puerto Rico over the past five years.

At a press conference, Galva, along with Assistant Health Secretary Félix Rodríguez Schmidt and Heriberto Marín Galva, a professor at the School of Public Health of the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus, presented the results of a longitudinal diabetes study that revealed an increase of 4 percent (from 14 to 18 percent) from 2016 to 2020 in the number of people with diabetes.

The increase is most noticeable in patients ages 71 to 80. But it is women who show a greater increase compared to men (53.8 percent women, versus 44.5 percent men), the study found.

“Certainly, the study results suggest that we have a problem with diabetes management,” Galva said at a conference. “The numbers have mostly changed in a negative way and this is a wake-up call that we have to refocus efforts and see what areas of opportunity exist within the health system to improve the condition of these patients.”

Galva said that if the upward pattern in prevalence is not addressed, the viability of financing the government’s health plan will be put in peril.

In 2016, a non-diabetic patient cost $1,064, versus a diabetic patient at $2,846. In 2017, the non-diabetic remained at $1,064, while the diabetic cost increased to $2,954. For 2018, the non-diabetic rose to $1,153 and the diabetic to $3,194. As of 2019, the non-diabetic increased to $1,330 versus the diabetic, whose patient cost rose to $3,630. Finally, in 2020, the non-diabetic cost $1,395, while the diabetic reached $4,224.

The study also reflects a considerable increase in kidney conditions and cardiovascular diseases, which complicate medical treatments for diabetics. Blindness and diabetic foot remained stable in the years in which the study was carried out.

“If we continue with the situation as it is, in terms of the increase in the prevalence of diabetes, the program will definitely have to acquire additional sources of income to those that exist right now, because the cost of the program would rise,” Galva said.

He anticipated that if the situation is not addressed, the funding crisis could be experienced in three years.

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