When Illinois Rep. Michael Tryon had a physical exam in 2004, his cholesterol level was good, he had a normally functioning thyroid and his long-term blood sugar level—also called an A1c—was normal. After his first year of service in the legislature, things had changed.

One in 12 Americans has diabetes. Among seniors, the disease affects about one in five people ages 65 to 74. Illinois Rep. Mike Tryon is one of those Americans with diabetes. He was diagnosed with the disease in 2006, shortly after he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives.  He’ll be a speaker at a special health policy academy planned for The Council of State Governments’ National Leadership Conference in La Quinta, Calif., from 8 a.m. to noon Friday, May 18.  The academy will help legislators  understand what role they can play in addressing the disease. 

The diabetes epidemic extends to 26 million Americans, 8.3 percent of the population. The Southern states have the highest rates of diagnosed diabetes, while no particular region of the country stands out with the lowest rates.  As the nation’s population ages, more people are diagnosed with this disease, currently the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.  African-Americans are two times more likely to die from diabetes that whites.

Diabetes continues to cost the United States billions of dollars in direct and indirect costs. Even as state funds become tighter, several states remain focused on lowering the prevalence and costs of the disease. The legislation focuses on diabetes prevention and management. States hope the money spent now will lower disease costs and morbidity and mortality rates in the future.