Diabetes is a Ticking Time Bomb in the Workforce

Diabetes is a workforce time bomb. Employees with diabetes report more lost work time due to absence and impaired performance than do workers with normal blood glucose, according to research by the Integrated Benefits Institute. If current trends continue, one in three adult Americans will have diabetes by 2050.

“Given the ever-increasing rate of diabetes and its consequences, the time for employers to act is now. Introduce clinical screening programs; adopt lifestyle intervention programs for those in the pre-diabetic stage; and provide targeted disease management for those already diagnosed. Finally, broadly measure the results of your interventions so you can show the full value of your programs,” said IBI Research Director Kim Jinnett, PhD.

The odds of missing at least one day of work in the last month were 47% higher for workers with diabetes than for employees with normal fasting blood glucose. In contrast, the odds for a worker with pre-diabetes were only 16% higher than the odds for a worker with normal blood glucose.

Diabetic employees report slightly lower job performance than employees with normal blood glucose levels even after adjusting for other health conditions. Performance for employees with pre-diabetes levels of blood glucose is not discernibly different from that of employees with normal blood glucose, underscoring the potential for positive outcomes by achieving moderate blood glucose improvements.

IBI president Thomas Parry, PhD said, “Treatment could help limit the toll of the disease, but many employees with diabetes may be unaware of their condition. Employers could benefit by improving diabetes awareness, encouraging healthy lifestyles and facilitating disease management.”

Employers can take the following steps to help prevent Type 2 diabetes and help control the effects of diabetes among workers:
• Improve access to blood glucose testing, paying special attention to employees with a high likelihood of elevated blood glucose levels. Work with supplier partners to ensure that employees have access to education and services.
• Promote weight loss among employees with unhealthy body mass. Even moderate weight loss can improve blood glucose levels.
• Promote disease management. Diet, exercise and coping skills can be effective for people who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Different types of insulin control mechanisms and medication may also be added. Employers should be aware that, for proper disease management, multiple providers must have excellent care coordination, and diabetic employees must be involved in their treatment.

For more information, visit www.ibiweb.org.

Last Updated 11/18/2020

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