There are more than 23.6 million children and adults in the United States with diabetes – 7.8% of the population. Almost 6 million of these people (or nearly one-quarter) are unaware that they have the disease. The number affected with diabetes is increasing by almost 10% per year. The total economic cost of diabetes in 2007 was $174 billion, accounting for about 1 in 6 health care dollars expended in the US. Recent estimates suggest that the prevalence of diabetes among adults in the US will increase to 33% by 2050.
Heart disease and stroke account for approximately two out of three deaths among people with diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults, the leading cause of kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplantation and the leading cause of non-traumatic amputations. Other diabetes-related conditions include chronic pain, dementia, other chronic mental illness, cancer, dental disease, and pregnancy complications including still births and birth defects.
The predecessors of diabetes - insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome - affect an additional 60 million people in the US.
In North Carolina, 643,000 people have diagnosed diabetes, 232,000 with undiagnosed diabetes and 376,000 with prediabetes. Diabetes ranks as the seventh leading cause of death in NC and affects more than 1 in 5 residents over age 65.
To address these issues, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) established the Diabetes Center for research in 2006 as an administrative structure to further campus-wide efforts to perform basic, clinical and population researched aimed at increasing knowledge as a first step to improved prevention and treatment of diabetes and its complications. The Diabetes Center is distinguished from the Diabetes Care Center established in 1993 by the legislature as a clinical center.
The Diabetes Center for research has secured a commitment from the University to establish five endowed professorships in diabetes and to provide the resources to attract from among the best senior scientists in diabetes world-wide. A search for a Director was opened in October 2010. The immediate goals of the center are to:
- Bring together and organize the efforts of the over 200 investigators at UNC-CH with funded research projects in diabetes ($350 million dollars since June 2000),
- Explore new opportunities on campus and regionally for collaboration in diabetes research and training,
- Support investigators in preparing grant applications and administering awarded proposals,
- Establishing effective vehicles for communication (web based and print) of both research findings and educational materials for professionals with a strong interest in diabetes.