A wise man once said, “If you have your health, you have everything.” Last month, I spoke with many people at the NIH’s 2013 Black History Month Observance Program about how a healthy body empowers us to live more freely, unrestrained by disease. It is a goal we are constantly pursuing.
Today, we have the knowledge to help us live longer and healthier, the knowledge to prevent or lessen the burden of chronic diseases that can limit our freedom. We can better manage and prevent serious, costly, and consequential conditions like obesity and diabetes - both of which take a toll on our nation and disproportionately affect African Americans.
Yet we still have work to do. Despite advances that have increased life expectancy and decreased disability, health issues continue to hold us back. For example, people with kidney failure - a common complication of diabetes - may spend many hours every week connected to a dialysis machine because their own kidneys aren’t filtering their blood. People with severe nerve and blood vessel damage - other complications of type 2 diabetes - may need a limb amputated.
At NIDDK, we fund and conduct research combating these serious diseases. Among many examples of research, the discovery of a human obesity gene, and its protein product leptin , was a major finding that has led to a wave of new basic and clinical research. The Diabetes Prevention Program showed the enormous power of lifestyle change for people with pre-diabetes. The Lifestyle Interventions in Expectant Moms study, or LIFE-Moms, is testing lifestyle interventions to control weight gain in pregnant women who are overweight or obese.
What drives us every day at NIH, and at the NIDDK, is our desire to help those people and others. Our role is to make scientific discoveries to help all Americans become free from disease – to live healthier and to live better.
In good health,
Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P.
Director, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases