On World Diabetes Day, SUNY Health Urges New Yorkers to Get Screened for Diabetes and Learn to Manage the Disease

November 14, 2019

SUNY Physicians and Researchers Conduct Potentially Life-Changing Studies While Working with Patients

SUNY Endocrinologist Discusses Diabetes

Albany - In commemoration of World Diabetes Day and National Diabetes Month, SUNY Health, the coalition of State University of New York hospitals from across the state, today urged New Yorkers to get screened for diabetes and learn more about managing the disease. SUNY hospitals and academic health centers are joining the worldwide effort to raise awareness and are working to improve diabetes care and treatment.

“Across SUNY’s academic health centers and universities, our researchers and doctors are leading medical studies to better understand and manage diabetes,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “This disease continues to be a major epidemic, and SUNY Health is working to prevent more cases and improve treatment for the millions who already have diabetes.”

“Diabetes is a serious disorder, very much underestimated by the population,” said MaryAnn Banerji, MD, director of the Diabetic Treatment Program at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. “The reason diabetes is a serious disease—and an expensive one—is because it has complications. The complications are insidious, and they creep up on you slowly. They can even happen when you have prediabetes.”

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, causing blood glucose levels to rise. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that enables body cells to take up glucose and convert it into energy. Excess glucose in the bloodstream raises the risk for multiple complications, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, blindness, neuropathy, and kidney failure.

In New York, the adult population with diabetes has gone up from 6 percent in 2000 to 10.5 percent in 2017. Today, nearly 1.7 million New Yorkers have diabetes. Nationwide, diabetes affects approximately 30 million people, or 9.4 percent of the population.

Another 84 million people have prediabetes, a precursor to diabetes in which blood glucose levels are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. The vast majority of people with prediabetes are unaware they have the condition, which like diabetes, can be diagnosed with a blood glucose test. Eighty percent of people with prediabetes will go on to develop diabetes.

Throughout SUNY, researchers and clinicians are working to improve diabetes care:

  • SUNY Downstate is in the midst of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes: A Comparative Effectiveness Study (GRADE). The study compares the effectiveness of combinations of commonly prescribed anti-diabetes medicines in maintaining blood glucose levels over time. The findings will help clinicians identify the characteristics that underlie the success, failure, and adverse effects of different drug combinations, which will help guide individualized treatment. The study began in 2013, and is expected to conclude in 2022. SUNY Downstate is also in the process of creating a community initiative called BUILD (Brooklyn United to Improve Lifestyle Management in Diabetes), which will result in a diabetes self-management toolkit for Brooklyn residents.
  • Upstate Medical University’s Joslin Diabetes Center participated in both the TODAY (Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes in Adolescents and Youth) study and its follow up, which were funded by the NIH. The multi-center study looked at the effectiveness of different blood glucose lowering strategies and the development of diabetes-related complications in youths who develop type 2 diabetes. The study found that half the youth who developed type 2 diabetes have a rapidly progressive form of the disease, develop complications sooner, and are less responsive to standard medications. The center is participating in a number of studies investigating the efficacy and safety of new medications and devices to better control type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin.
  • Researchers at the University at Buffalo are doing a study funded by the NIH that gauges the effectiveness of the Healthy Habits Behavioral Program. The program, which was developed by Leonard H. Epstein, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and director of UB’s Behavioral Medicine Lab, helps participants develop healthier eating and exercise habits in order to lose weight and prevent diabetes. In previous studies, the program resulted in participants losing an average of 20 pounds over six months.
  • SUNY College of Optometry’s University Eye Center recently started offering intravitreal injections to treat diabetic macular edema and proliferative diabetic retinopathy, diseases that can result in vision loss. The center is also exploring an investigational imaging device that will evaluate the accuracy and quality of retinal images and using a new diabetic eye report that will enhance provider communication for patients with diabetes. In addition, the College is looking at the use of telemedicine to interact with primary care physicians who provide images of patient retinas for interpretation and diagnosis of diabetic eye disease.
  • Stony Brook University Hospital was recognized by the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) this year with the HANYS Pinnacle Award for Quality and Patient Safety for delivering exceptional quality care to patients with diabetes. A multidisciplinary team of dedicated clinicians and staff developed a robust diabetes program using population health data and analytics (“glucometrics’), comprehensive diabetes education, and standardized policies and procedures to support patients with diabetes at Stony Brook Medicine. The program has exceeded national benchmarks among peer academic medical centers by improving diabetes outcomes, reducing hospital length of stay, decreasing hospital readmissions, and meeting American Diabetes Association standards of diabetes care.

Diabetes research is also taking place on other SUNY campuses. At Binghamton University for instance, researchers are developing mechanisms to support pancreatic islet transplants that secrete insulin, while scientists at the University at Albany are exploring the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. 

About SUNY Health

SUNY Health encompasses four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, the state’s only college of optometry, and 25 other campuses dedicated to health professions and services. Together, SUNY Health graduates more than 10,000 health professionals every year, including one of every three medical school graduates, one of every three nursing graduates, and one of every five dentists in the state. SUNY Health serves more than 1.3 million patients a year and produces groundbreaking biomedical and health sciences research and innovation. We play a critical role in creating the future of healthcare and medicine in New York State, across the country, and around the world.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit suny.edu.

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