Treating The High Cost of Diabetes

poverty and diabetes

I was stunned to learn that my childhood friend was the subject of a FAiTH Impact story in our clinic. I discovered from Facebook that he was now living in Branson, far from the rural Minnesota towns where we grew up. At ten or twelve, he enjoyed playing his dad’s bass guitar. Eventually, he found a career in the music industry in Branson. Nearly fifty years after we first met, health problems had led him to our clinic to seek care for a problem with his vision.

His vision problem was diagnosed as a symptom of advanced type 2 diabetes. He was going blind, and without quick intervention, he would lose his sight entirely. How does that happen? One in ten Americans has diabetes, about 34 million people. Nearly a quarter of them are undiagnosed. People in poverty are twice as likely to develop diabetes, putting their odds closer to one in five. Poor nutrition, obesity, and genetics are all factors, putting lower-income individuals at higher risk for diabetes.


Treatment is expensive, and many people cannot afford access to insulin regimens that can often cost more than $1,000 per month. As a result, they put it off and hope for the best. Many have no idea that they are ignoring a disease that can destroy their vision and result in the amputation of their limbs. In our clinic, we often find that patients newly diagnosed with diabetes have A1c levels that are extremely high, putting them at risk of cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, and kidney damage including potential kidney failure.

Amputations resulting from diabetes, over 130,000 every year, discriminate against the poor. A California study found that amputations were ten times more likely for the lowest income neighborhoods when compared to the highest. The cost of treating diabetics is enormous. We spend nearly a quarter trillion dollars on diabetes each year in the U.S., a quarter of all healthcare spending. When people become disabled and lose their ability to provide for themselves and their families, the impact on lives and the cost to us all for social care programs is incalculable. Medicare, Medicaid, and numerous federal programs incur continuing expenses that could largely have been prevented upstream.

With your help, we can change the course of this disease in the lives of the hundreds of diabetics we serve locally, enabling our neighbors to get access to the care they need to avoid the high toll of untreated diabetes. A Dispensary of Hope study found more than fifty percent reduction in hospital inpatient admissions in populations served by clinics like Faith Community Health, saving hospitals an average of $650,000 annually in uncompensated care for every thousand patients served.


For just $10 per month, we can provide access to the tools and medications diabetics need to maintain their health. But we want to move upstream and help reduce the alarming growth of people at risk for diabetes. More than one in three Americans have pre-diabetes, but less than 12% are even aware of it.

By screening patients, FAiTH is collaborating with the Taney County Health Department on a community health improvement project to reduce the incidence of obesity, a major factor in diabetes. And we have just received grant support for a nutrition education program in partnership with MSU and Christian Action Ministries. The funding will enable us to provide hands-on diet and cooking education to help diabetics improve nutritional intake, focusing on managing and preventing diabetes factors.

Poverty is expensive. For all of us. Faith Community Health is working proactively to help people avoid expensive healthcare conditions, enabling them to remain in the workforce and engaged in the life of our community. We’re not just putting a bandage on poverty. We are working to help families avoid the high cost of poor health, saving thousands of dollars in healthcare costs for the people we serve.

Sharing God’s love through whole-person care. Will you help us? Donate today.


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Kenn Tilus serves as the Executive Director of Faith Community Health
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