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The Georgia Senate approved legislation Wednesday that, if enacted, should give state residents significant help in their battle to prevent or control diabetes. There is little doubt that such assistance is needed. About 700,000 Georgians, or 10 percent of the state's population, had been diagnosed with diabetes in 2007, the last year for which such figures are available. A year earlier, the disease was the primary cause of death for more than 1,600 people in the state.

Senate Bill 163, co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Thomas, R-Dalton, now goes to the House. It merits prompt approval. The legislation would allow the commissioner of Human Resources to name a coordinator to oversee the state's diabetes prevention and treatment programs. That's eminently sensible in a state where the death rate due to diabetes is in the U.S. top 20 and where the rate of new diabetes cases is among the highest in the nation.

Diabetes is an insidious disease associated with high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production that causes sugar to build up in the body. It is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It can cause a variety of serious and chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and the loss of limbs. Even so, says Sen. Thomas, a practicing physician, many people do not know they have diabetes or do not have enough information or assistance to control the disease.

The goal of the state diabetes co-ordinator would be to preserve life and to alleviate suffering. Saving money would be an added benefit. A well-operated program undoubtedly would reduce the diabetes-related load on an already strained health care system. A skilled administrator could accomplish those goals by eliminating duplicative services and by improving access and outreach to information and services across the state. Filling the post need not burden taxpayers. The job could be filled by a knowledgeable individual already employed by the state.

There's ample reason for the state to provide such services. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study indicated worrisome increases in the rate of diabetes in the Southeast and Appalachia, particularly Georgia, Tennessee Alabama, South Carolina and West Virginia. That's hardly a surprise, given the region's already noted risks for obesity, cardiac disease, strokes and other chronic and debilitating diseases. The bill approved by the Georgia Senate acknowledges a need and offers targeted control and prevention programs in an effort to reduce diabetes' physical and fiscal cost.

Passage of the Senate bill by the House won't end diabetes in Georgia. It should, however, help prevent or delay onset of the disease and lead to better treatment and outcomes for the rising number of people either at risk for diabetes or living with it. As such, it is legislation worthy of approval.

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