To: Governor Mark Dayton

Dear Governor Dayton:

In the event that you have not issued an official proclamation for the month of January, let me suggest that you proclaim it “health club utilization month.” Health clubs are overrun—or at least overstumbled—with people attempting to atone for the holiday season. Long lines form behind aerobic equipment—but the same people jockey for parking spaces close to the door of the facility. Why do people do this?

We have known for some time that obesity is strongly associated with a decline in quality of life and with diabetes. Obesity and diabetes have climbed to almost epidemic status. A visit to the Minnesota State Fair, or, perhaps, the effort necessary to wedge yourself into an economy-class seat on an airline, will offer graphic evidence of this epidemic.

According to a UnitedHealth Group working paper (2010) and analysis done by the Decade of Discovery, a diabetes research initiative led by the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, more than 25 million people in the United States have diabetes, while another 79 million have pre-diabetes. And while that’s nearly one in three Americans, by the year 2020 it is estimated that 52 percent of our country will have diabetes or pre-diabetes. The financial toll this takes, to say nothing of the personal health toll, is staggering.

Diabetes has cost the United States $194 billion in 2010, but that is estimated to exceed $500 billion in 2020. It is further estimated that from 2011 to 2020, $3.4 trillion will be spent on diabetes-related care nationally. Recent talk of fiscal cliff aside, that is almost three times the annual federal deficit. In Minnesota alone, the annual cost of diabetes care and lost productivity is about $2.7 billion and could increase to more than $13 billion per year by 2020.

Okay, now the good news. Minnesota, of which you are governor, has the opportunity to be the diabetes laboratory for the world. The Decade of Discovery—a joint venture of the University of Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic, and the State of Minnesota—is an innovative collaboration to align the significant resources and strengths of the institutions. Minnesota is home to institutions and organizations that truly have a chance to prevent, optimally treat, and ultimately cure both type one and type two diabetes. That cure is the announced goal of the Decade of Discovery. Success in this endeavor would establish Minnesota as a world leader to address one of the great scourges of modern society. The financial benefits to this state and the tremendous savings in health care costs would be immense.

There is a lot you can do to help bring success to our effort to defeat diabetes. First, the Decade of Discovery needs continued state funding, in addition to the increased funding that the University of Minnesota should receive in this budgetary cycle: base funding for Mayo and the U of M of approximately $7 million a year and an additional appropriation of $20 million for the next 10 years. Close partnership between the two preeminent public research organizations in this state will only continue if requests of this kind do not impact other funding that both institutions should receive. Furthermore, due to the tremendous commercial opportunities that would result from successful research, significant non-governmental funding should be available, and that is beginning to happen.

But finally, and as with all individual efforts, visible leadership can have a powerful influence. As governor, you should be deeply involved in this fight against diabetes. Success against the disease would be a lasting legacy for all of us and for the Dayton administration. It would be good to hear this in your State of the State speech.

Until then, I’ll see you at the health club by the StairMasters.

Vance K. Opperman
Chairman, Oversight Committee
Decade of Discovery

Vance Opperman (vopperman@keyinvestment.com) is owner and CEO of MSP Communications, which publishes Twin Cities Business.

 

To view a video on the diabetes research being performed at the University of Minnesota’s Schulze Diabetes Institute and Center for Diabetes Research, click here.

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