The diabetes industry

 

High Country News recently reported  on an epidemic of diabetes among Native Americans who have, over the years, switched from traditional diets to mainstream processed food.
 
And I can personally attest that this chronic disease can strike someone of Scotch-Irish-German ancestry -- like me. In the fall of 2009, my vision was getting blurry, so I figured it was time for new glasses.
 
My eye doctor took retinal scans and detected damage done by diabetes. He referred me to a laser surgeon for repairs. I also needed regular care, so that I didn't lose my eyesight or my feet. I turned to the Chaffee People's Clinic,  set up for local residents of limited means who lack health insurance. I have a fine caregiver there (she helped got me through quitting smoking after 44 years of Camel straights), and I feel fortunate we have the clinic.
 
I don't have to inject insulin. I take one pill a day to improve my insulin production, and twice a week, I check my blood sugar. I also eat more fruits and vegetables, while avoiding sweets and cutting down on carbohydrates. Plus I should take a daily walk of at least 45 minutes -- the dog is dutiful at reminding me about this.
 
That's not a difficult regimen. It's something I should have done long ago anyway when I was pretty much a meat-and-potatoes guy. Truth be told, I generally feel better than I have in years, thanks to losing weight and eating more sensibly.
 
Even so, I have some dark thoughts. Our society makes it easy to eat the junk food that can bring on diabetes. It's also a society that discourages walking -- look at how we build sprawling suburbs that require miles of driving for work, school, shopping, etc. And then we've got this big diabetes industry  of medicines and physicians and magazines and books.
 
In other words, we've built a system that profits by making people sick and profits again by selling cures. Diabetes must be a serious contributor to the Gross Domestic Product, and so it's good for the American economy, even if it's hard on a substantial portion of the population.

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

Ed Quillen is a freelance writer in Salida, Colo.

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